Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 123

Addressing a gathering of Russian patriotic groups, Kremlin security strongman Aleksandr Lebed yesterday vowed both to ban foreign religions and to make the battle against the West’s "cultural expansion" a cornerstone of his security policy. "Everyone comes to Russia to steal," Lebed told a news conference. "I’m against this. Russia’s wealth is for Russia." Lebed reportedly singled out the Mormon Church and the Japanese cult Aum Shinri Kyo for criticism, saying that they and other foreign sects represented a "direct threat to Russia’s security" and "should be outlawed." He also described Russia as having "three officially recognized religions–Orthodoxy, Islam, and Buddhism," omitting to mention Judaism and Russia’s 1.5 million Jews. Prior to his nationalist diatribe, Lebed had told his audience that it was too late to turn away from Boris Yeltsin’s reform course and that communism was incapable of restoring Russia’s greatness. (Western and Russian news agencies, June 27)

Lebed also continued efforts yesterday to expand his influence within the Kremlin, telling Itar-Tass in an interview that he would ask Yeltsin to grant him "certain controlling and coordinating functions over the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI) and the Federal Security Service (FSB)." Without elaborating, Lebed also said that he intended to request of Yeltsin that Russia "exploit the potential of the Foreign Intelligence Service to realize certain programs in the field of economic, information, and ecological security." (Reuter, June 27)

Lebed’s request for the authority to coordinate activities of the FSB and FAPSI appear to fall in line with broader proposals advanced earlier by Lebed and Yeltsin in the context of strengthening Russia’s Security Council. Lebed’s thinly veiled call to increase foreign economic espionage, moreover, appeared to be consistent with a draft national security concept published June 26 by Interfax and attributed to Lebed. (See Monitor, June 27) Yesterday, however, Lebed denied that the hard-line document was his own, suggesting that it had been drafted prior his arrival in the Kremlin. (Itar-Tass, June 27)

Yeltsin Temporizing on Defense, Security Appointments?