Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 16

Two Western newspapers reported on January 21 that Russian police last week raided the Moscow apartment of journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein in an attempt to take him to a psychiatric clinic in the city of Vladimir, a facility allegedly controlled by Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo. Khinshtein is a reporter with the newspaper Moskovsky komsomolets and the host of a program called “Secret Materials” on TV-Tsenter, the television channel owned by the Moscow city government. The attempt to incarcerate Khinshtein was apparently thwarted when his lawyer arrived at the apartment along with a TV-Tsenter film crew. Khinshtein has reportedly gone into hiding.

Last year, Khinshtein ran a number of articles featuring “kompromat” (compromising materials) against the tycoon and Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky and against Rushailo, who is reportedly a Berezovsky ally. Among the materials published by Khinshtein were excerpts of what he and Moskovsky komsomolets said were telephone conversations last year between Berezovsky and Chechen rebel officials, in which Berezovsky promises to send them large sums of money. The conversations allegedly took place shortly before Chechnya-based Islamic militants led by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev raided the neighboring republic of Dagestan. Earlier, Khinshtein published articles alleging that firms controlled by Berezovsky were involved in laundering money from the Aeroflot state airline and electronic eavesdropping on top officials, including Boris Yeltsin and his family. In addition, Khinshtein accused Rushailo in print of thwarting the investigation of Berezovsky. Last year, while Yevgeny Primakov was prime minister, an arrest warrant was issue for Berezovsky, but it was dropped after Primakov was fired. A number of observers believed that Khinshtein was acting as a conduit for “kompromat” leaked by Primakov allies and Berezovsky foes inside Russia’s special services.

Last May, police raided Khinshtein’s apartment after he was stopped for a traffic violation and found to have a card identifying him as a police major. Newspaper reports on January 21 quoted an Interior Minister spokesman as saying that Khinshtein had been charged with using false documents and had failed to appear for questioning. The spokesman said that the police had decided to give Khinshtein a psychiatric evaluation because he had previously been treated in special clinics and disqualified from military service. Khinshtein’s mother was quoted as saying that he was disqualified from military service for a spinal injury.

A spokeswoman for the Russian Union of Journalists said that Khinshtein was being persecuted for his journalistic activities (The Independent, The Baltimore Sun, January 21).