Russia investigates Boris Yeltsin museum for ‘foreign agent’ activity

(Reuters) – Russia’s Justice Ministry has opened an investigation into a museum dedicated to the late President Boris Yeltsin for possible activity as a “foreign agent”, state news agency RIA reported on Thursday.

The Yeltsin Center in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg honors the life, work and legacy of Yeltsin, who served as the first president of post-Soviet Russia from 1991 to 1999 and served as appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor.

The museum’s steering committee includes Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and senior Kremlin officials Anton Vaino and Alexei Gromov, according to the institution’s website.

The term “foreign agent” has connotations of espionage and has been widely used by Russian authorities against journalists, opposition figures and others they deem to be carrying out anti-state activities with the support of the stranger.

Such a designation – if confirmed by the investigation – would be a stain on the legacy of Yeltsin, who died in 2007 at the age of 76.

Many Russians credit him with defeating a sweeping Soviet coup in 1991, but he is also widely blamed for the turbulent period after the Soviet collapse in which many people were thrown into hardship while a small group of “oligarchs” acquired vast fortunes.

RIA said Deputy Justice Minister Oleg Sviridenko told a committee of the lower house of parliament that a “deep” scrutiny of the Yeltsin Center had begun and nothing would be hidden.

He said Sviridenko was responding to a request from a lawmaker, Andrei Alshevskikh, for an investigation that would establish “once and for all” whether there was any truth behind speculation about the “foreign agent” activity of the Yeltsin Center.

The museum said in a statement that all of its activity, including financial, was transparent and legal.

“We are confident that an audit by the Ministry of Justice will confirm that there is not, and there can be, no grounds for declaring the Yeltsin Center a foreign agent,” he said.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan and Felix Light, Editing by Gareth Jones and Angus MacSwan)

Leave a Comment