Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Russian Special Services Still Kidnap, Even Kill Moscow’s Opponents Abroad, “Novaya Versiya” Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – Russia’s special services have “never thought about dropping the use of kidnapping” against those Moscow has identified as enemies and who have fled the country, according to an article in today’s “Novaya versiya.” But “the quality of such operations has so improved that there is practically no evidence of them in the press.”

            Indeed, Georgy Filin writes, the current Russian efforts build on the more famous ones of Soviet times, when Soviet agents frequently kidnapped and killed leaders of the anti-Bolshevik White Movement.  That experience, far better known than the current Russian one, is still studied in Israel, France, Germany and Poland (versia.ru/articles/2012/nov/19/prokralis).

            Many in Russia and the West had assumed until very recently that this practice had stopped and that “[Russian] special services had ceased to kidnap people abroad already in Soviet times.”  Such people noted that “KGB and GRU veterans had more than once acknowledged that already in the 1970s, Leonid Brezhnev stopped sanctioning such operations.”

            But the case of Leonid Razvozhayev, who was seized in Kyiv and returned to Moscow last month, has cast doubt on those assurances and led some to conclude that Moscow is reviving “the experience of a half century ago when intelligence officers and party functionaries who had fled to the West were returned in the trunks of cars with diplomatic plates.”

            As Filin repeatedly acknowledges, documenting this extremely murky area is anything but easy.  Many of the documents are classified or otherwise unavailable, and both those who carry out such operations and those who are the relatives and friends of the victims put out so many variations of the story that sorting out truth from invention is hard.

            Nevertheless, the “Novaya Versiya” writer says, certain things are clear. The current wave of kidnappings of those who fled abroad began in 2006 when the Duma approved amendments to the law on state security and countering terrorism and the Federation Council approved an order on countering terrorism abroad.

             In 2007, Ruslan Eliyev, a Chechen who has a comrade in arms of Zelimkhan Endarbiyev and who was living in Azerbaijan, was persons “unknown” but then found dead near the Chechen village of Samashki.  Many say that Sulim Yamadayev and his special Russan-backed GRU “East” Battalion was involved, Filin says.

            “If seizing a militant out of Azerbaijan was comparatively easy” – that Eliyev’s “fate” was repeated in the case of “several of his comrades in arms” – “to take a dangerous terrorist from the territory of Turkey was a much more complicated affair,” the “Novaya versiya” journalist continues.

            But that is what happened to Khamzat Gitsba, a former colleague of Shamil Basayev. Gitsba had first moved to Abkhazia in 2000 but then “resettled” in Turkey, apparently “out of a concern that [the Abkhaz] might hand him over to the Russian authorities.  But then while living in Istanbul, he was seized in July 2007, and on August 17, his corpse turned up in Abkhazia.

            “There are a bass for asserting that the special services of Russia were involved in Gitsba’s kidnapping,” Filin adds, noting that two other field commanders, Gadzhi Edilsultanov and Islam Dhanibekov, not only stated that but were subsequently found dead in Turkey in the fall and winter of 2008.

            These actions, of course, recall the Soviet kidnapping of Aleksandr Kutepov, a White Russian general who had organized subversive actions against the Soviets, for which he was kidnapped and later tied on a Soviet ship sailing between Marseilles and Novorossiisk, of Yevgeny Miller, another White leader, and of Swedish diplomat Raul Wallenberg.

            Such actions by the Russian security services now, of course, are directed against “bandits” who Moscow says have “the blood of dozens if not hundreds” of Russian compatriots. But that doesn’t reduce concerns about this latest echo in Vladimir Putin’s Russia of one of the worst aspects of the Soviet policy -- especially when it is directed, as was the case with Razvozhayev, someone with no connections to terrorism at all.

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