'KGB killed for the Politburo'

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The Independent Online
THE KGB set up terrorist groups in the 1950s to sponsor political murders inside the Soviet Union and carry out assassinations abroad, a lawyer for Boris Yeltsin told Russia's highest court yesterday, during hearings into the legality of President Yeltsin's ban on the Communist Party.

Andrei Makarov, the lawyer for Mr Yeltsin, was presenting the case against the Communists. He argued before the Constitutional Court that the party itself was illegal because of the way it operated, and therefore Mr Yeltsin's ban was justified. The Communists maintain it was only a 'political party', but the Yeltsin camp is arguing the party was a 'special machinery of state power that placed itself above the law'.

The KGB's 'Bureau Number Two' - one of the special groups - had been set up by the ruling Politburo under Stalin in September 1950 and was put 'in charge of carrying out special assignments inside the Soviet Union and to eradicate actions hostile to the state by special means'. That included torture, kidnapping and murders, said Mr Makarov.

Each operation by Bureau Number Two had to be approved by the party's top officials. The bureau was a predecessor of the KGB's special 'Alpha' group, which was under orders from the plotters of last year's failed coup to storm the Russian parliament where Mr Yeltsin and his followers had taken refuge. The Alpha group refused to do so.

Mr Makarov produced a party document, dated March 1990, which said Alpha officers were so loyal that they 'infinitely devoted themselves to the Communist Party and to the Motherland'.

The second party order produced by Mr Makarov, dated September 1953, six months after Stalin's death, set up another KGB body in charge of terrorist activities abroad, 'special department 12'. Mr Makarov quoted the Politburo order as saying the group was in charge of 'carrying out diversions against the strategic sites of the (Soviet Union's) key enemies - the United States and Britain'. Mr Makarov said the group had planned an explosion at a US military facility in Austria in December 1953, but had not carried out the operation.

Sergei Shakhrai, another Yeltsin representative, told the court that a dissident Ukrainian priest was murdered by the KGB in the early 1950s with the approval of Nikita Khrushchev, then the Communist boss in Ukraine.

The second stage of the government's economic reform plan will transform Russia's cradle-to- grave social security system, officials said yesterday. In future, if the plan is approved by parliament, citizens will contribute toward public services. People will buy vouchers for education, health care and public housing.