Hunt for ex-KGB agents shades Lithuanian election Commission's motives, tactics criticized

October 25, 1992|By Will Englund | Will Englund,Staff Writer

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Balys Gajauskas spent 37 years in Sovie prison camps, and now he's getting even in a way that some suspect is designed to help his party in today's national election.

Mr. Gajauskas is the leader of a parliamentary commission charged with exposing and rooting out his old enemies, the agents of the KGB, the former Soviet security police.

He goes about his work with a cold zeal. His targets are among the elite of Lithuania. They include a former prime minister.

He is also in the inner circle of Sajudis, the movement that brought independence to Lithuania -- and that faces considerable disenchantment among voters in today's parliamentary elections.

And as Sajudis has lost more and more supporters in the wake of economic hard times since Lithuania won independence, Mr. Gajauskas has tackled his work with renewed vigor. The pace of accusations has increased as the elections approach. His detractors see either a man obsessed with retribution or one out for crass political gain.

It happens that in the past several months every person publicly accused by Mr. Gajauskas' commission is an opposition

candidate for parliament.

Is it a purge? The people around President Vytautas Landsbergis, the leader of Sajudis, talk of "dark forces" influencing Lithuania, even 14 months after its independence. Critics accuse Mr. Gajauskas of using the same tactics against his opponents as the KGB once used against him and his allies.

Mr. Gajauskas, 66, joined a partisan group fighting Communist domination of Lithuania in 1945. He was arrested in 1947 and sent to Siberia, released in 1973, re-arrested in 1977 and released again in 1988.

The KGB he fought in those days was the hammer wielded by Moscow to subdue Lithuania. Its agents -- working often in secret, relying on a network of informers and creating a climate for betrayal -- deported tens of thousands to Siberian labor camps, destroyed the careers of others and ruthlessly smashed opposition to the Soviet regime.

Today Mr. Gajauskas sees a nation that needs to be put right.

"We have to know who worked for them," he said in a recent interview. "We have to know them and see that they're not working against their country.

"Step by step, we find out everything about these agents. We want them to know they're being watched," he says. "We're exposing this system that destroyed nations, that ruined people's lives."

Mr. Gajauskas is officially co-chair of the KGB commission, which was set up a year ago and is dominated by members of the Sajudis movement. Its work involves sifting through the secret police archives, publishing what it deems to be relevant material and moving in court against those it believes actively worked for the KGB.

"But this is by no means a settlement of past accounts," Mr. Landsbergis said in an interview. "It is our understanding that the KGB has had a great deal of influence on our society through its agents. This is not good, and this has to be corrected."

"KGB structures are still active here," said Povilas Varanauskas, the commission's other co-chair. "They're still very powerful."

Mr. Varanauskas wants all former KGB agents and collaborators to come forward and confess. As long as they confess, they can't be blackmailed by the KGB into working against Lithuania, he said.

The names of people who confess before the commission, and "do not aspire to higher position," will be kept secret, he said.

As for others, their names are publicized. Documents, files and accusations are published in the newspapers.

So far the commission has publicly fingered Kazimira Prunskiene, a former prime minister under Mr. Landsbergis; Jonas Kubilius, a former rector of Vilnius University, and a half dozen others.

Those who have been accused say they have no way to respond. The stain of the accusation, they say, can never be fully eradicated.

Smear tactics

"If somebody's against the government, they accuse them of being KGB," said Mr. Kubilius. "It's just political games."

"It's a political fight. They use the KGB label to destroy political enemies," said Ms. Prunskiene.

Ms. Prunskiene was accused of writing reports about each of her trips abroad over the years as a university researcher, reports that she presumably knew would end up in the KGB's hands. A document was found -- a forgery, she says -- that seems to be a contract to work for the KGB. Files showing that the KGB had spied on her were unearthed, and the commission took this as evidence she was a collaborator.

Ms. Prunskiene's case went to court, and last month the court found against her. Under the law, that means she would have to stand in a special recall election if she wanted to keep her parliamentary seat. But she decided to give it up.

The former prime minister, a bitter foe of Mr. Landsbergis, is outraged by what she sees as unfounded smears.

Independent deputies tend to agree.

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