KGB Abolishes Anti-Dissident Unit
Oct. 26, 1989
MOSCOW (AP) _ The KGB has abolished its infamous 5th Directorate, which persecuted dissidents, and created a unit intended to combat ethnic bloodshed and violent uprisings, Izvestia said Thursday.
The government newspaper quoted KGB chairman Vladimir A. Kryuchkov as saying the definition of anti-Soviet crimes had become narrower, the laws had changed and people no longer have to fear a simple slip of the tongue.
''In and of themselves, thoughts and convictions, no matter what they are, are not considered crimes if they are not realized in actions included in the law,'' Kryuchkov said.
He said the new unit, like the 5th Directorate, would work ''to foil the conspiracies of foreign intelligence services to create and use organized anti-government groups in our country,'' but also would try to ''prevent mass disorders and other illegal phenomena of an extremist bent.''
He told Izvestia the new ''Subdivision for the Defense of the Soviet Constitutional Structure,'' would continue to fight ''antisocialist elements in the country.''
Kryuchkov, who has tried to promote the image of a new and kinder security service, said the 5th Directorate was founded in 1967 to counter ''ideological sabotage.''
He acknowledged ''mistakes, shortcomings and, unfortunately, abuses,'' but said poor laws were partly responsible.
Yuri Mityunov, a veteran dissident, said Thursday that 5th Directorate personnel functioned as ideological police.
''In its time, it punished people for telling political jokes,'' he said in a telephone interview. ''They're the people who are listening to us now.''
Mityunov said he believed the KGB was redistributing some functions, but still was intent on harassing dissidents and even assassinating people it viewed as political threats.
Western sources say the 5th Directorate locked dissidents away in prisons and mental hospitals, controlled religion in a clandestine manner and persecuted Jews seeking to emigrate and other minorities for nationalist activities.
John Barron, an expert on the KGB, said in a book about the agency that the 5th Directorate was its ''thought control unit,'' responsible for suppressing underground literature and hounding ideological heretics.
Maverick legislator Boris N. Yeltsin told a foreign radio station last week he was told by the KGB it could kill him at any time by stopping his heart wih an electric device. Mityunov said Yuri Vlasov, a former champion weightlifter who spoke against the KGB in the national parliament this summer, believes agents subsequently tried to poison him.
Kryuchkov has made no public response to the allegations.
He said in Izvestia the agency will increase efforts against organized crime, reported to be booming in the freer atmosphere fostered by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's reforms, and continue working against terrorism.
Since 1970, Kryuchkov said, the KBG has caught more than 1,500 people ''hatching terrorist plots.''