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Russian Ex-Spy Chief Sues for Libel

November 27, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ The ex-chief of Russia’s Federal Security Service has filed a libel suit against a controversial business mogul for alleging secret agents were plotting to kill him, the former spy said today.

Boris Berezovsky, a billionaire with close Kremlin ties, made the accusations earlier this month in an open letter to Vladimir Putin, the current head of the security service, known by its Russian acronym as the FSB.

The service is the main successor of the Soviet KGB and employs many of its former agents.

In the letter, published by the Kommersant newspaper, Berezovsky claimed many top FSB officers share a communist ideology and dream of undoing democratic reforms and restoring the repressive security system employed during Soviet times.

Former FSB chief Nikolai Kovalyov _ one of the people Berezovsky has mentioned in the alleged plot _ denied the allegations today and said he had sued for libel, the Interfax news agency reported.

``An unabashed mudslinging campaign is being waged against law enforcement bodies,″ Kovalyov told a news conference. ``The professional reputation of Russia’s FSB has been soiled.″

Berezovsky expressed satisfaction that the matter has been taken out in the open.

``It is good that Kovalyov has understood that serious issues must be discussed in an open and civilized way,″ Berezovsky was quoted by Interfax as saying.

The scandal began when FSB Lt. Col. Alexander Litvinenko reported to President Boris Yeltsin’s office this spring that his commanding officer had ordered him to kill Berezovsky.

The chief prosecutor’s office started an investigation, then suspended it for lack of evidence.

The officer who allegedly gave the order to kill Berezovsky, Alexander Kamyshnikov, deputy head of the FSB’s department for organized crime, has denied the claims.

But Litvinenko again went public with the allegations, calling a news conference last week to accuse his bosses of ordering kidnappings, extortion and contract murders, including a plot to kill Berezovsky.

Several other officers _ one of them wearing ski mask to the news conference _ supported Litvinenko’s account.

Yeltsin ordered Putin, the FSB chief, to look into the allegations.

Berezovsky was injured in 1994 when a bomb destroyed his armored Mercedes sedan and killed his driver. The case has never been solved.

Berezovsky, whose business interests range from oil to cars to media holdings, is also executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of 12 ex-Soviet republics.

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