KGB Thuggery

The Soviet security police, or KGB, have launched a new drive to suppress the samizdat journal The Chronicle of Current Events. This was confirmed when they conducted a seven-hour search at the end of January in the Moscow flat of Mrs. Tatiana Khodorovich, a linguist and long-standing dissenter, and confiscated a large quantity of material. The Chronicle has been appearing since 1968 and has given detailed coverage to the activities of many dissenting groups and their persecution by the KGB. The 32nd issue was 125 pages long.

Issue No. 33 was circulated in Moscow in December. The Russian text, which arrived in New York at the end of January, is largely devoted to information on five prison camps in the USSR, and contains lists of political prisoners held in the camps and detailed accounts of their treatment as well as statements by some of the prisoners themselves. It will be issued in the United States by the Khronika Press. The police want to find out who prepared and edited it.

Formally, the search of Mrs. Khodorovich’s flat was in connection with “Case No. 345,” a large-scale KGB operation in Lithuania which began in 1973 and has involved several hundred house-searches and interrogations and a growing number of arrests. Its main aim is to suppress the samizdat journal The Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, of which eleven issues have appeared in three years.

A recent wave of searches of Moscow flats and the arrest of Dr. Sergei Kovalyov, an eminent biologist, were also formally linked with the Lithuanian case. But Dr. Kovalyov’s friend Dr. Andrei Sakharov, in an appeal to Amnesty International and the world’s biologists, dismissed this link as a pretext.

The KGB does, however, have grounds for suspecting a link between Dr. Kovalyov and Mrs. Khodorovich and the Chronicle of Current Events. Last May they and a third colleague handed copies of the Chronicle openly to Western journalists, together with a statement that they regarded it as a legal publication. They wanted the widest possible circulation for it, they wrote, since they believed that the “truthful information” it contained should be made available to everyone interested.

Another current KGB target in Moscow appears to be the Amnesty International group which was established there last year. Dr. Kovalyov is a member of this group, and its secretary, Mr. Andrei Tverdokhlebov, has had large quantities of literature removed from his flat by the KGB twice in recent weeks.

Amnesty International in London has protested these searches and Dr. Kovalyov’s arrest several times. Steps are also being taken to raise Dr. Kovalyov’s case at the 12th International Congress of Botanists, due to take place in Leningrad this July.

A third KGB target is Dr. Sakharov. Ominous threats to kill members of his family, he reports, have clearly been inspired by the KGB, as were similar threats in 1973 during the long campaign of vilification of him in the Soviet press. And for the last six weeks …

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