Russian Who Says Spied On Opposition Denied Asylum In Finland
A Russian who says he was recruited by the security service to spy on a liberal opposition group said Monday that he was denied political asylum in Finland and fears retaliation if deported to Russia.
“If they are mild, they will put me in jail,” Alexander Novikov told AFP by telephone from the northern Finnish town of Rovaniemi. “As for the worst-case scenario, I do not even want to discuss it by telephone.”
Novikov says that from 2006 to 2008 he was paid by Russia’s FSB security service, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, to infiltrate an anti-Kremlin political group led by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
He went public with his claims in February 2008 during a trip to Denmark and subsequently applied for political asylum in Finland – an application that was rejected by Finnish authorities last Friday, he said.
“They told me, roughly speaking: ‘You have not presented enough material to be granted political asylum’,” Novikov said, adding that he planned to appeal the ruling but that he could be deported in days if the appeal were rejected.
According to Novikov, the FSB paid him 8,000 rubles (about $300 at the time) a month to pose as an activist of Kasparov’s group, the United Civil Front, and give them regular reports about its activities.
Novikov says he gave the FSB advance information about the group’s protests, adding that his FSB handlers appeared “very afraid” of the prospect that Kasparov could eventually lead a mass uprising.
“They were afraid of protests. They were very afraid of mass uprisings,” Novikov told AFP.
“The system is afraid of a mass uprising. And the idea of a mass uprising was presented to me in this way: If Kasparov gathers 3,000 people, this is nothing to fear…But if he gathers 50,000, then it is something.”
An FSB spokesman declined to speak to AFP by telephone about Novikov’s allegations and asked that questions be submitted in writing. Questions sent by fax to the service weren’t answered Monday.
The United Civil Front has confirmed that Novikov regularly attended their activities and was even arrested at one of their protests. Russian opposition groups say they are regularly spied on by the FSB.