Grigory Yavlinsky, Russia's best-known
liberal politician, Thursday accused the country's internal-security
forces of tapping his telephones and trying to coerce
supporters to spy on him.
"You must not take the country back to
the atmosphere of surveillance, informers and political
repression," Mr. Yavlinsky wrote in a letter to Federal
Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev. The FSB is
the direct successor agency to the old Soviet KGB.
Mr. Yavlinsky, whose reform-oriented
candidacy finished a distant third in March to Russian
President Vladimir Putin, said on the party's Web site
that he had received information that FSB agents had tried
to blackmail at least two younger party members to spy
on Yabloko activists.
"This is shameful and violates the constitution,"
Mr. Yavlinsky wrote. The political leanings of Mr.
Putin, a former KGB agent himself, have come under increased
scrutiny in the wake of last week's detention of Vladimir
Gusinsky, the owner of the country's leading independent
media organization, on charges of financial fraud.
In Washington Thursday, leading officials
of the Union of Right Forces, another pro-market party
that has allied with Yabloko in Russia's parliament, said
it is still hard to predict how the largely untested Mr.
Putin will govern. Boris Mints, chairman of the party's
executive committee, worked with Mr. Putin when both held
administrative posts inside the Kremlin under then-President
"My sense is that [Mr. Putin's] inclinations
are democratic and liberal," said Mr. Mints. "But
the political success he has achieved so quickly leads
to a kind of dizziness," he added. "And the question is,
if he does get dizzy, which way will he go?"
Mr. Mints said Russia's pro-market-reform
parties have been generally happy with both the economic
team and the economic program Mr. Putin has backed since
his May 7 inauguration. But he called the Gusinsky arrest
a "debacle" and expressed concerns about other signals
that Mr. Putin is not a strong supporter of democracy
and political rights.
"Nothing in this life is black and white,"
said Mr. Mints. "Where the president is supporting our
ideas and proposals, we will back him. When he doesn't
support our ideas, we will strongly disagree."
Founded in September 1999, the Union of
Right Forces has tried to unite Russia's quarreling reform
parties, pushing for a thorough overhaul of the economy
and better relations with the West.
While trying to build a grass-roots base,
the party also boasts a number of leaders in influential
positions in the Russian government and business elite.
Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, one of five
"co-leaders" of the Union of Right Forces, was tapped
last month by Mr. Putin to be one of seven presidential
representatives to the country's vast new federal administrative
districts. Fellow co-leader Anatoly Chubais, a controversial
champion of economic restructuring under Mr. Yeltsin,
now runs the country's biggest electrical utility.
Mr. Yavlinsky and Yabloko have been more
outspoken in their criticisms of Mr. Putin's war against
the breakaway republic of Chechnya. Party spokeswoman
Yevgenia Dilendorf said Mr. Yavlinsky had been shadowed
by FSB agents for about three weeks, and his telephone
conversations had been monitored. She did not say how
the party learned of the surveillance. FSB authorities
did not comment on the charges yesterday.
• This article was based in part on
wire service reports.
of Grigory Yavlinsky on Sergei Dorenko’s programme
Moscow Spies on Party Gain Weight
Orders Students to Spy on Yabloko