Not long ago, such notions like terrorism and organized criminality seemed to be exotic for us. However, there were people in our country for whom terrorism was the object of their work even in the so-called “stagnant” times. During those times, we knew nothing about the special subdivision of the KGB. Only now, the veil is being lifted and we are learning how the USSR regarded the fight against terrorism.
PRAVDA.Ru correspondent talks to former aid of KGB Anti-Terrorism Department’s chief, Lieutenant Colonel Yuri Levitski.
Your department was fighting against terrorism. What concrete activities were included in this notion?
As today, at that time, the fight against terrorism was one of the most important issues. The menace of terrorism was real not only for foreign countries but also for the USSR, and it is real for today's Russia. Therefore, we should clearly understand what terror is: the terrorist groups, what were their aims are, and what methods should be used against them. Therefore, we actively collected information about terrorism, which was studied and generalized. There were stable contacts with other countries’ special services, and not only with our allies, but with NATO countries as well, first of all, with the US, with Germany and Great Britain, for certain coordination of our activities. The question was not always about cooperation, though the exchange of information about certain terrorist groups that were dangerous for us all was necessary. Afterwards, some measures were taken to localize these groups’ activities.
Therefore, in general, you worked at the collection of information about these groups, but not at agent penetration into them?
Penetration into the groups is a quite complicated action. In general, members of terrorist groups are fanatics, who are ready to use all factors to realize their aims. They can use contacts with special services exclusively for their interests. In such cases, we could be accused by Western countries of supporting international terrorism and of using it to realize our political plans. Therefore, such actions would be politically pointless and very dangerous.
Yes, the most famous political scandal took place after an attempt at the Pope’s life, of which Soviet special services were accused. Much was written about this event.
It was, and it more will be written about it. Those actions were secret, and only a limited circle was aware of them. Therefore, many facts will still remain unknown. Some actions of the kind are still actual. Though, I would prefer not to comment on this case.
Nevertheless, did you make attempts of agent penetration?
Yes, there were some agent penetrations; let us say that our sources were in these groups’ surroundings.
So, we could say their activities were controlled to a certain extent?
It would be to daring to speak about controlling the leaders’ activities to whom ordinary members of the groups were completely submitted. It is a very complicated task to penetrate into their plans and to know everything about their actions. And we could not control them in full. However, we could retrace some tendencies of their activities and carry out certain actions. For example, the political orientation of some groups was taken into account. Palestinians were against Israel and against its main ally, the US. Irishmen were against Great Britain and against the US. Therefore, being aware of their orientation, we could forecast where a strike will be delivered.
Earlier, the Third World’s citizens were studying in our country. Some of them became leaders of national liberation movements in their countries using, besides others, methods of political terror. So, you probably should disavow them?
This is quite a complicated question. Yes, many people connected with national liberation movements were studying in our country. And we had to work with these people in some way. The level of this work was different. Though, it was quite complicated to fully control their activities. As a rule, these people were fanatically adjusted. However, we could make some influence upon them. What do you mean to say disavow? Simply speaking, to give them up? For example, the Israelis knew the names of people holding high posts in some terrorist groups and that they were studying in our country. So, there were requests from them of different kind, and I cannot exclude that they were executed. For example ,if Israeli or American hostages were taken by Arabs, we could localize these acts and avoid bloodshed.
The Israelis and Americans knew these people sympathized with our country, so they knew we could influence these people in some way. This was why, we had a normal dialogue with Americans while meeting with them.
However, our country was accused of training terrorists?
On the whole, I suppose that the USSR played a positive role in the neutralization of terrorist activities. This is only my opinion, while other points of view could be different. We did not encourage terrorism. There are some statements that we created special groups and financed them. That is absurd! However, we were preparing people for different special formations, for special services, for armies of developing countries. They were trained in our camps. Afterwards, some of them could have been engaged in terrorism to some extant. We could not completely limit their freedom. At that time, there was another situation: there was confrontation of the two camps, so as representatives of the countries rejecting Western dictate, they were our allies in our opposition to NATO and the US. Though I can exclude that any terrorist actions had been planned by our country or supported by the USSR, financially or with arms. It is completely excluded. And we always have stressed to our friends from developing countries that we were not supporters of terrorist actions.
Are these terrorist acts connected with each other: the physical annihilation of Ahmad Shah Masud and the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington? And if they do, who could be the mastermind?
Anything is possible.
Did your department “K”, counter espionage, also realize agent penetration into the military environment? It did. Our department occupied itself with these questions, especially in the Third World’s countries with which we worked.
So, who is behind Osama bin Laden? Who controls and finances his activities? Why cannot the CIA, possessing agents in all the terrorist groups, annihilate him?
They are oil sheiks of Arab countries. Namely, in Arab world, Wahhabism has spread.
However, the CIA has agent penetrations into terrorist groups, but it has weak positions in Arab world. On Afghan territory, the CIA uses the Pakistani special services. In general, I could say US special services pay more attention to their electronic possibilities, while paying less attention to agent intelligence.
Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru