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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nashi Activist Tells of Snooping for Kremlin

Undercover pro-Kremlin agents have worked in opposition groups across Russia to provide the presidential administration with information on opposition activists and rallies, a self-described handler said Thursday.

Anna Bukovskaya, a St. Petersburg activist with the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group, said she coordinated a group of 30 young people who infiltrated branches of the banned National Bolshevik Party, Youth Yabloko and United Civil Front in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Voronezh and six other cities.

The agents informed Bukovskaya, who passed the information to senior Nashi official Dmitry Golubyatnikov, who in turn contacted "Surkov's people" in the Kremlin, Bukovskaya told The Moscow Times. Vladislav Surkov is President Dmitry Medvedev's first deputy chief of staff.

The agents provided information on planned and past events together with pictures and personal information on activists and leaders, including their contact numbers, Bukovskaya said by telephone from St. Petersburg.

They were paid 20,000 rubles ($550) per month, while she received 40,000 rubles per month, she said.

She said Nashi, which is believed to have been created by Surkov, had nothing to do with the project and speculated that Kremlin officials might be behind it.

Golubyatnikov, reached on his cell phone Thursday, asked a reporter to call him back. He did not answer repeated return calls.

A Kremlin spokesman said he did not have time to comment on the claims and promised to call back. He did not call back and declined to comment in several subsequent phone calls, saying he was busy.

Mikhail Kulikov, a senior Nashi member, confirmed that Bukovskaya was one of the group's "rank-and-file" activists but said the group had "nothing to do with her activities."

"Nashi doesn't get involved in such things," he said.

Bukovskaya said she oversaw the 30 agents from January 2008 until Tuesday, when she told Youth Yabloko, which she joined six weeks ago, that she was being paid to monitor their activities and to handle people in other opposition groups.

Bukovskaya said she decided to quit "the dirty project" because she had become disillusioned with Nashi and sided with the opposition.

Opposition groups, "the people who really stand up for the rights of ordinary citizens, must know about this project," Bukovskaya said.

She said she also handled people in Red Youth Vanguard, Oborona and Mikhail Kasyanov's People's Democratic Union.

Ilya Yashin, former leader of Youth Yabloko, said he feared for Bukovskaya's safety in light of her claims. "She is in a dangerous situation," Yashin said. "She mustn't be left alone."

Opposition leaders said informers could not cause any trouble because they had nothing to hide. They also said that it was next to impossible to prevent informers from penetrating their groups.

"We have no secrets worth spending money on," said Denis Bilunov, a senior official with Garry Kasparov's United Civil Front.

Bilunov's opinion was echoed by Oborona coordinator Oleg Kozlovsky and National Bolshevik Party spokesman Alexander Averin.

Red Youth Vanguard leader Sergei Udaltsov said his group had uncovered undercover agents sent by law enforcement agencies to collect information or "make provocations." He said Red Youth Vanguard had never expelled any suspected agents but instead blocked their access to information about the group's activities.

Analysts said the Kremlin staff might need undercover agents to provide up-to-date information on the public's mood during the economic crisis. The Kremlin gets information from a combination of public sources and "with the help of a network of agents," said Alexei Mukhin, an analyst with the Center for Political Information.