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The Kremlin Wants Information. To Get It, Agents Show Up With Flowers.

The Kremlin is particularly concerned about groups like Open Russia, Mr. Galeotti said, because of its links to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an exiled Russian billionaire who, after nearly a decade in Russian prison camps, now lives in London and finances a wide range of projects intended to promote democracy and civil liberties inside Russia.

Open Russia, whose Moscow office has been raided twice by the authorities, says it receives some funding from Mr. Khodorkovsky but not from his London groups that have been declared “undesirable.” Representatives for Open Russia in Russia have insisted it is not so much an organization as an alliance of small and wholly Russian civil society groups.

Unnerved but also intrigued by the motives and identity of the stranger who appeared at her door with flowers, Ms. Gryaznevich took his phone number. After calling her boss at Open Russia to ask for advice, she agreed to meet him.

“I had no idea who he was or what he wanted, but he was very polite and well-spoken,” recalled Ms. Gryaznevich, who had recently returned from the eastern city of Vladivostok after spending a night in police detention for helping to organize a conference there sponsored by Open Russia.

Over coffee, “Andrei” quickly made clear that he knew all about her troubles with the police in Vladivostok — and a disconcerting amount about her life in general, including her trips abroad on behalf of Open Russia.

The man offered to help her solve her legal issues, explaining that her lawyer “cannot protect you, but we can” — so long as she reciprocated with help of her own.

His proposition, she said, was this: If she agreed to meet once a week to provide information, especially about her foreign contacts — who they were, what they were doing and why — she would no longer need to worry about being pursued by the police and threatened with jail time. “We can solve all these problems,” she recalled being told.

Source: NYT > World

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