Spies all over
- A Chechen journalist arrested for spying for the French intelligence,
for allegedly giving his political analyses on the crisis in
Chechnya? What more could we expect fro the FSB? M.L.
Saturday, Apr. 28, 2001. Page 10,"The Moscow Times"
Russia Slips Back Into Its Shell?
Xenophobia is never very far from the surface in Russia, but in
recent months we've seen an alarming turn for the worse. Each day
brings fresh evidence that the government is intentionally turning
its back on the outside world, systematically severing ties that it
should be cultivating.
One telling example is the ill-conceived bill restricting foreign
ownership of Russian media now being ramrodded through the
State Duma. The Moscow Times and its parent company, Independent
Media, obviously have much at stake over this proposed law. However,
we are convinced that the Russian people have much more to lose.
"One morning we might wake up and discover that our parliament or
government will be elected for us by some Turner who owns the main
TV channels," said Deputy Pavel Kovalyenko, defending the proposal.
Supporters seem unconcerned that in 1996 and again last spring, it
was state-owned and oligarch-controlled television that hijacked
presidential elections. For such primitive politicians, it is simply
easier to blame foreigners.
Or consider the case of U.S. student John Tobin, convicted Friday
on drug charges. While there are many unclear circumstances about
this case, the attitude of the local FSB is perfectly clear. "He
probably wasn't studying how to bake pies," an FSB spokesman said
sarcastically and entirely spuriously. We hope that we haven't
reached the point where only students interested in baking are
welcome in Russia.
Or how about Valentin Danilov? Danilov was arrested in February for
spying in connection with information that was declassified in 1992.
His colleagues at Krasnoyarsk State Technical University have
protested that the FSB is stifling legitimate academic and commercial
activity. Of course, we should not forget Alexander Nikitin, Grigory
Pasko, Igor Sutyagin
The apparently intentional result of these actions is to limit the
important and legitimate work of academics, NGOs, private citizens
and businesses. The government seems bent in true Soviet style
strictly controlling all contact with foreigners, a retrograde
development that must be resisted.
Of course, the West is not blameless. Only the naive can doubt
that Western countries have tried to gather information through
academicians, journalists and business people. Moreover, actions
such as Radio Liberty's decision to begin Chechen-language
broadcasting are unnecessarily provocative and play into the hands
of the xenophobes.
But Russia can deal with these problems without killing off direct
contacts between its citizens and the outside world. We mustn't allow
xenophobes to turn Russia into another North Korea.