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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yabloko Pickets FSB in Spying Flap

As a handful of Yabloko's more youthful members protested on Monday outside the former KGB headquarters, Yabloko leaders criticized an official investigation into allegations that the security services had tried to bully one of their party members into spying on their party.

In fact, Yabloko says, prosecutors who claim to be investigating the matter have instead used the opportunity to scold the young Yabloko member for not simply keeping quiet and agreeing to spy.

Dmitry Barkovsky, 20, a Yabloko activist in St. Petersburg, says he was told he would be expelled from Baltic State Technical University and sent to Chechnya unless he agreed to "spy" on Yabloko. His classmate, Konstantin Suzdal, says he took time off of school to campaign for Yabloko during elections - Yabloko says Russian law protects such vacations.

Both were subsequently expelled. Baltic State says they were let go because of poor scholastic performance, but Yabloko counters they were good students with excellent grades who were targeted for their politics.

Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky has taken up the case, in letters to the president, the prosecutor general and the headof the Federal Security Service, or FSB. Yavlinsky has also asserted that he himself and other Yabloko leaders have come under FSB surveillance and he has suggested this surveillance has come about on orders from President Vladimir Putin.

Neither the Kremlin nor the FSB have commented. But last week prosecutors in St. Petersburg stepped in to investigate.

In a statement, the Yabloko press service said the prosecutors interviewing Barkovsky "tried to convince him of 'the legality and correctness from the state's point of view' of trying to recruit them and of their expulsion from school over the refusal to cooperate with the FSB."

"In the course of a four-hour conversation, which Barkovsky characterizes as an interrogation, one of the top prosecutors tried to get Barkovsky to offer information about the internal structure of the Yabloko [Duma] faction, about the activities and private lives of some deputies and also about some Yabloko activists."

Barkovsky, in a telephone interview on Monday, confirmed that, and said he had been told by prosecutors they intended to exonerate the FSB and the university from any wrongdoing in the matter of his recruitment and expulsion.

The FSB has declined comment throughout on the allegations.

"What the FSB people are doing would be dangerous if it weren't so funny," said Andrei Sharomov, leader of a handful of activists who arrived at Lubyanskaya Ploshchad on Monday to protest the fate of Barkovsky and Suzdal.

The 13 protesters - armed with four signs, two flags, pots, pans and a large bottle of Ochakovsky beer - clinked beer mugs, rattled their pots and pans and derided the FSB.

"It's not possible to return this generation to Stalinist times," Sharomov said. "Now we have the full authority to call them nuts."

Barkovsky said Monday that he had not been aware of the protest on his behalf, but added he was glad to hear of it because the FSB had told him that he and Suzdal would get no support.