Appearing on Russian television yesterday, Russian president Boris Yeltsin announced that he was sacking security adviser Aleksandr Lebed from all his posts. Yeltsin said he could no longer tolerate Lebed’s "mistakes," his constant quarreling with other ministers, his taking of decisions without proper authorization, and the fact that he was openly running what amounted to an election campaign. Yeltsin signed the dismissal in front of the televisions cameras. (ORT, October 17) Though Yeltsin looked frail, he succeeded in showing that, in a crunch, he still controls events.
Yeltsin made no reference to the allegations that sparked the crisis: charges by Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov that Lebed was planning a coup. This bears out suspicions that Kulikov’s charges were fabricated to remove Lebed from the Kremlin. The affair is reminiscent of the charges made in June against Kremlin security chiefs Aleksandr Korzhakov and Mikhail Barsukov. That affair is commonly believed to have been masterminded by Anatoly Chubais, whom Lebed yesterday identified as the man primarily responsible for his own ouster. The way Lebed was brought onto the Kremlin team in June to help Yeltsin win reelection is also reminiscent of Yeltsin’s use of another general, Aleksandr Rutskoi, whose presence on the ticket helped Yeltsin win election in 1991. Once Rutskoi had served his purpose, Yeltsin dropped him too.
Commentators agree that this week’s events go deeper than a mere clash of personalities between Lebed and Kulikov, and predict that other Kremlin divisions will soon appear, perhaps between Chubais and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
Former Security Chief Unrepentant.