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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB's Anonymous Tips Rule Blasted

Human rights activists rang alarm bells Tuesday over what they saw as an attempt by the Federal Security Service to revive the KGB's practice of encouraging Russians to inform on one another by welcoming anonymous tips.

The wave of criticism was generated by FSB director Nikolai Patrushev's recent order to introduce a new of set rules for accepting and processing complaints and tips from Russian citizens and foreigners.

The new regulations, which Patrushev issued Dec. 4 and the Justice Ministry endorsed Jan. 9 as fully corresponding with federal law, bar the FSB from considering anonymous tips.

Under the rules, which were published Feb. 3 in the official government publication Rossiiskaya Gazeta, anonymous letters are to be filed away if they contain allegations of a crime either committed or planned. Otherwise they are to be destroyed.

The Soviet practice of government agencies welcoming anonymous tips was outlawed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1988 during the time of glasnost.

But in 1994, the FSB drew up regulations allowing it to check up on anonymous tips if they contained allegations involving a crime.

Click here to read our special report on human rights.It was unclear why Patrushev decided to issue the revised regulations or whether FSB officers would in fact ignore anonymous tips in practice. The FSB could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

But human rights activists still attacked the new regulations, seeing them as an attempt by the secret services to further strengthen their grip under President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer.

"The special services are clearly trying to run the entire state," said Sergei Grigoryants, head of the Glasnost Foundation and a staunch critic of the KGB, in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Grigoryants' colleague, Vladimir Oivin, described the new rules as "further continuation of efforts to revive the KGB monster, to reinstall an atmosphere of universal fear when everyone would be encouraged to report on everyone."

These activists of the Glasnost Foundation, which studies the KGB and its successors, said the FSB and other agencies have encouraged anonymous tips by setting up hotlines.

The Segodnya newspaper described the new rules as an end "to one of the symbolic achievements of perestroika."

According to Boris Nadezhdin, a State Duma deputy and expert on comparative law, law enforcement agencies in many countries check anonymous tips when they believe they may contain useful information.

"It is common, but it doesn't mean that one can use such a tip [alone] to arrest someone," said Nadezhdin, who is a member of the liberal Union of Right Forces faction.