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Yeltsin fires key security officials

Yevstafiyev

June 20, 1996
Web posted at: 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Two key aides to Russian President Boris Yeltsin shuffled out of government headquarters in Moscow Wednesday, reportedly carrying a box filled with $500,000 in cash.

Security forces suddenly swooped in and arrested the men, Sergei Lisovsky and Arkady Yevstafiyev -- two top Yeltsin re-election campaign officials.

The two men were released hours later, after the arresting officers said it was determined the money was rightfully theirs. Yevstafiyev said he wasn't carrying any cash.

Korzhakov and Yeltsin.

On Thursday, Yeltsin fired the two top security chiefs who were accused of setting Lisovsky and Yevstafiyev up -- Mikhail Barsukhov, director of the Federal Security Service and Alexander Korzhakov, the president's personal body guard since 1985.

Yeltsin also fired Oleg Soskovets, a first deputy prime minister.

The three fired officials formed an influential faction within the Kremlin, and their dismissal represented a major clearing of unpopular, hard-line figures from top levels of the government.

Also Thursday, Yeltsin promoted a former KGB official, Lt. Gen. Yuri Krapivin, to be his acting personal security chief in place of Korzhakov.

Anatoly Chubais, a top Yeltsin aide, claimed the three men who were fired had plotted to cancel the elections and control Yeltsin from behind the scenes. Yeltsin and other top officials foiled the plot, Chubais said.

"There will be no coup in Russia. There will be an election in Russia," Chubais told a news conference.

Lengthy grilling

Appearing dazed and distraught on Russian television after his release, Yevstafiyev said he and his colleague were held at gunpoint by Yeltsin's security service for roughly 11 hours. They were questioned on a broad range of matters, he said, including being asked about "compromising" materials on top officials.

Yeltsin accused Barsukhov, Korzhakov and Soskovets of meddling in his campaign and trying to control him.

"They took too much and gave too little," Yeltsin said in announcing the firings. "We had to change our people. We have to bring in fresh blood."

Korzhakov, who had pushed last month -- albeit unsuccessfully -- to have the Russian election delayed to prevent a Communist victory, denied Thursday that the arrests had anything to do with political upheaval.

"There is no political feature to their case. If people leave the White House with a box full of hard currency, the police are bound to get suspicious," he said.

The head of Yeltsin's re-election campaign, Sergei Filatov, didn't buy the argument. He sharply castigated the two security chiefs for overstepping their bounds: They "allowed themselves -- inadmissible for their posts -- constant interference in Boris Yeltsin's election campaign."

Yeltsin

Chubais, former deputy prime minister and a top Yeltsin re- election strategist, said Korzhakov and Barsukhov staged the money-carrying incident to help assure their political futures.

Chubais accused the chiefs of intentionally creating a chaotic atmosphere before the upcoming runoff election between Yeltsin and Communist rival Gennady Zyuganov. Chubais said Yeltsin's recent appointment of retired Gen. Alexander Lebed as national security adviser had prevented a coup.

"The appointment of Lebed is the last nail in the coffin of Communism," said Chubais, who said planting money on innocent civilians is an old KGB trick. "Today, when president Yeltsin fired Barsukhov and Korzhakov, it was the last nail in the coffin of coups."

The tough-talking Lebed added he would not tolerate such upheavals: "Any revolt will be suppressed, and in an extremely tough way. Those who want to plunge the country into the depths of blood chaos do not deserve pity."

Thursday's events follow the firing Tuesday of Yeltsin's unpopular defense minister, Pavel Grachev, who was close to Korzhakov and the other men.

The dismissals are likely to boost Yeltsin's popularity among Russian voters. Those fired were seen as shadowy hard-liners.

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