Romania's spy chiefs battle over revolution

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THE publication in Romania of a report that blames Soviet agents for the violence of the 1989 anti-Communist revolution appears to be linked to a power struggle among Romania's spy chiefs. The report, released last week, was published under the authority of Virgil Magureanu, who has run the Romanian Intelligence Service (RIS) since it was established in 1990 as the successor to the former Securitate.

Since January, Mr Magureanu has launched a far-reaching purge of RIS agents, sacking the head of the counter- intelligence division, Gheorghe Diaconescu, as well as several heads of departments and numerous other senior officers. The reasons for the dismissals are obscure but, according to one theory, Mr Magureanu felt threatened by accusations that he was too close both to the Soviet KGB in the 1980s and to its Russian successor agencies.

As a way of distancing himself from these charges, Mr Magureanu alleged last March that the KGB had played a role in the December 1989 revolution that resulted in the execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. The latest report, adding details to the allegations, can be seen as another effort on Mr Magureanu's part to portray himself and his agency as free from Russian influence.

The report contends that foreigners, especially Russians, were deeply involved in the revolution, in which more than 1,000 people died. 'In the days preceding the revolution, the activity of Soviet residents intensified in all fields,' it says. 'Contacts also intensified among Soviet and Hungarian information officers and their Western counterparts.' It says that, from 9 December 1989, the number of Soviet tourists in private cars in Romania rose from 80 a day to more than 1,000 a day. 'They were travelling two or three to a car. The majority were athletic-looking males aged 25 to 40,' it says, clearly implying they were agents.

The report describes an incident near the city of Craiova on 24 December in which two people died during a clash between the Romanian army and a convoy of cars. Four months later, a woman claiming to be a Soviet army major asked for the return of four cars damaged in the clash, the report says.

While not disputing that popular anger at Ceausescu's dictatorship lay behind the revolution, the report suggests that the demonstrations in Timisoara and Bucharest that provoked his downfall were planned in advance by unnamed forces. It says these forces dispensed euphoric drugs from trucks in Bucharest on 21 December to make the crowds brave and revolutionary in spirit.

The origins and course of the December uprising are still a sensitive matter in Romania, since many opposition activists allege that President Ion Iliescu and other former Communists manipulated the events to ensure they took power after the Ceausescus' execution. Some Romanians are convinced that Securitate agents deliberately sowed confusion and spread rumours of tens of thousands of deaths in order to create the impression of a vast popular uprising, while Communists and security policemen quietly organised a coup behind the scenes.

Along with Mr Iliescu, Mr Magureanu is the only important figure of the revolution who has continued to hold high office. This may explain his eagerness to demonstrate that if there was any manipulation, it came from Russians rather than former Romanian Communists and Securitate officers.