Old comrades join KGB club for jobs

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The Independent Online
MOSCOW - Once they were the sword and shield of the Kremlin, ruthlessly repressing dissent, keeping files on millions of people and chasing secrets around the world. Today the former officers of the KGB, openly proud of their past and their skills, are clubbing together to carve out a profitable future in the new capitalist Russia.

Top officials of the 'Club of State Security Veterans' told a news conference yesterday that their organisation was busy finding new jobs for its members and trying to polish up their old firm's brand image. Club president Valery Velichko, who used to organise security for the Communist leadership, said the club, founded last year and with 600 members, aimed to help former agents retrain for work in business, security and other areas. 'One of our main aims is to help the psychological adaptation of members in the new conditions of a market economy,' Mr Velichko said.

'There is an impression that all ex-KGB men have happily found jobs and adapted. Many have, but there are people in very difficult situations.' The club was also giving legal advice to former agents about their pension rights and intervening on behalf of those who were refused passports for travel abroad on security grounds. They wanted to dispel 'evil connotations' of political repression still associated with the KGB.

Under Stalin, whose terror reached its height in 1937, the Cheka, forerunner of the KGB, arrested and killed millions of people. Reformed in the 1950s, the KGB survived as a vital arm of the Soviet state until August 1991, when its boss Vladimir Kryuchkov was the main organiser of a failed coup. It was split up, reduced in size, renamed and stripped of many of its functions, only to be reorganised again after last October's armed clashes in Moscow between President Boris Yeltsin and his opponents.

The club's deputy president, Sergei Obrezanov, asked whether former agents felt any remorse for KGB human rights violations in the Soviet period, replied: 'People forget one thing - the KGB worked in the legal situation that existed at the time. It never took the initiative.'