MOSCOW -- The new super-security ministry created by Russian President Boris Yeltsin started life in the tradition of the old KGB it replaced -- by destroying crucial files, the Tass news agency alleged Friday.
Workers at the new Russian Ministry of Security and Internal Affairs -- created out of four agencies -- the Soviet KGB and Interior Ministry and the Russian KGB and Interior Ministry -- burned compromising material on corrupt police officials, Tass said, quoting a ministry source.
The Russian television news program Vesti reported that it had independently corroborated the Tass allegations, saying an unnamed worker in the Russian Federal Security Agency, formerly the Russian KGB, confirmed that documents were being destroyed.
'The liquidation of files on corruption is selective, however,' the FSA sourcesaid, 'and the fates of only the highest-placed police officials are being saved.'
Next in line for burning were files on politicians who took bribes and had links with the criminal world, the Tass report said.
However, official spokesmen of the former Soviet KGB, the new MSIA and the FSA denied the reports.
Alexander Karbainov, press secretary of the old KGB told the newspaper Izvestia that the reports were designed to sow discord between the KGB and the Interior Ministry as their new joint body was being formed.
Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Vladimir Yanchenkov confirmed such corruption files existed, not only on police officials but also on politicians.
Yanchenkov denied the Tass allegations, but admitted there was a great deal of confusion in abolishing some agencies and reorganizing them into new ones, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.
The KGB has a long tradition of destroying files.
The practice of shredding documents was stopped by Vadim Bakatin, appointed by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to head the KGB after the failed hard-line coup in August, in which many top KGB officials were implicated.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, an official of the former Soviet KGB and an aide to Bakatin, told Komsomolskaya Pravda that 550 volumes on leading human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov, and 105 volumes on writer and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn were destroyed last year.
The Tass report on documents allegedly being destroyed inside the new security agency came as leading government and political figures pressed Yeltsin to annul his decree creating the ministry -- which puts police, intelligence, security and spy operations into one ministry for the first time since 1954.
Critics fear it will become an instrument of repression like Stalin's feared NKVD, which unleashed a nationwide campaign of terror against the Soviet people in the 1930s.
Even the Russian Parliament voiced concerns about the new ministry.
Interior Minister Viktor Barannikov, speaking Thursday before the allegations arose about destruction of documents, told Parliament that only a large comprehensive ministry was capable of combatting crime.
Deputies were not convinced, however, and adopted a resolution urging Yeltsin to annul his decree creating the Ministry of Security and Internal Affairs.
Even Yeltsin's top legal advisor, Sergei Shakhrai, testified before Parliament earlier this week that he opposed merging the ministries.