- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin gave Russia's security service sway over the border guards and government communications yesterday broad powers that nearly equal those of its powerful predecessor, the KGB.
Mr. Putin said the move, along with other Cabinet changes, should help the government fight illegal drugs and terrorism.
Officials also said that the merger would also help save money and increase efficiency.
"We can't say that the government structures are acting efficiently enough and duly coordinating their efforts in this very important sphere," he said in televised remarks.
But some observers described it as yet another worrisome sign of the growing clout of the KGB's main successor agency, the Federal Security Service, or FSB.
The KGB was split into several separate agencies during the turbulent months surrounding the December 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The reform was then presented as a way to break with the KGB's repressive past, limit its sweeping powers and make it more open to public control.
As part of the reform, the KGB was split into the FSB, which was put in charge of domestic security, and the Foreign Intelligence Service, intended to oversee spying abroad.
"They are re-creating the same old monster," said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident, who now heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, a respected human rights organization.
Mr. Putin, a 16-year KGB veteran, headed the FSB before becoming Russia's prime minister and then president. He has spoken about his KGB career with pride and appointed some of his former colleagues to top government positions.
He earlier expanded the FSB's clout by putting it in charge of the war in Chechnya. The decision yesterday gives the FSB most of the broad authority possessed by its predecessor.
"The move is intended to make it more powerful and influential," said Sergei Kovalyov, another Soviet-era dissident who is now a human rights activist and member of parliament. "It's a natural step for a person who came from this organization and surrounded himself by people with similar records."
From now on, the FSB will oversee the border guards and, together with the Defense Ministry, inherit the functions of the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), which Mr. Putin disbanded.
Miss Alexeyeva said that the government was exerting greater pressure on human rights groups and environmental activists to make them follow the official line.
The border guards chief, Gen. Konstantin Totsky, was appointed Russia's envoy to NATO, and the head of FAPSI, Vladimir Matyukhin, was named a deputy defense minister in charge of weapons industries, Mr. Putin said.
"Putin is giving more powers to the people he knows he can trust," said Ivan Safranchuk, the head of the Moscow office of the Center for Defense Information, a Washington think tank.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide