KGB vs. KGB: Putin's crackdown extends to old comrades
Arrests and intimidation of political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin have been on the upswing recently, extending even to a former KGB comrade of the Russian leader.
Gennady Gudkov is the last person you'd think of as a radical dissident. Yet he's been driven into a dangerous corner, and it looks like the Kremlin has set its sights on destroying him.Skip to next paragraph
A former career KGB officer, Mr. Gudkov and his son, Dmitry, are both Duma deputies with the "loyal opposition" party Just Russia. The Gudkovs both became involved with the street protest movement that erupted last December in order to steer the protesters toward peaceful and constructive engagement with the authorities, the elder Gudkov insists.
But today, amid a wave of government actions that some protest leaders are calling "the shadow of 1937" – the year mass Stalin-era repressions began – the Gudkovs find themselves in serious trouble, with their family business all but ruined by a blizzard of state "inspections" and the pro-Kremlin United Russia party moving to expel them and another Just Russia deputy, Ilya Ponomaryov, from the Duma.
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"I was warned several times, by people who shall remain nameless from high up, who gave me 'friendly advice' to stop all this involvement with the protest movement, and they assured me that if I did my problems would go away," Gudkov says. "The last time was in early June."
Since then, the family business, one of Russia's leading security firms with about 7,000 employees, has been hit with a wave of inspections from the police, fire department, and even the Moscow architectural control committee, which resulted in the suspension of its license to allow its security guards to carry weapons in Moscow.
Inspections are currently going on in most of the other 20 Russian regions where the company, Oskord International, operates. Without the 200 or so guns – only small pistols and smooth bore rifles, Gudkov says – in the company's arsenal, its security guards have had to stop working.
Gudkov insists the company, which has worked for the United Nations and Russian law enforcement agencies in the past, has sailed through regular inspections every three months for the past decade and has never experienced a problem with its registered firearms or their method of storage before.
"Now our business in Moscow is all but ruined, and we're being hit in the regions," he says. "I have no doubt that this is punishment directed at me for my civic position and my support of the protest movement. What's happening to me is being repeated all over the country in various ways to hundreds of other people right now, most of them not so well known as me. There is one organizing force behind all this, and that is the Kremlin administration."