Yeltsin Aide Hits Out at Influence of Korzhakov

In comments indicating a struggle for influence in the Kremlin, President Boris Yeltsin's chief aide said Thursday he had no control over the Russian leader's increasingly powerful personal security force.

"I will be frank. I don't know who is in this division, or its structure, or what they are engaged in," Sergei Filatov, head of Yeltsin's presidential administration, told the popular weekly Argumenty i Fakty in an interview.

"But it is known that they are increasing their influence on the administration, on the government. They are expanding, they are putting personnel under their control, and there is much more, but that is only rumor," he said.

Filatov said the personal security force, headed by Major General Alexander Korzhakov, operates with its own finances and under the strict control of the president.

Filatov, seen as a moderate, hit out at the security chief, claiming that overzealous security guards are making life difficult inside the Kremlin.

Security surrounding journalists who visit the Kremlin administration is being unjustly intensified, and some officials fear their rooms are being bugged, Filatov said.

"It is true that in my office some people are using pen and paper to communicate, for fear of talking out loud," he said.

Korzhakov is portrayed by Russian media as a shadowy figure with increasing influence over Yeltsin.

There are no clear laws defining spheres of responsibility in the Kremlin, and Yeltsin's aides are fighting for influence over the Russian leader.

Speculation about the extent of Korzhakov's political influence escalated last December, when he denounced World Bank proposals to reform Russian's oil export system in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Izvestia asked, "Who is running this country -- Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin or Korzhakov?"

Filatov also referred to an incident last December when Korzhakov's men raided the offices of the powerful MOST-Bank, which has close ties to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

The Russian media say there is little love lost between Korzhakov and Luzhkov, who is widely seen as a possible candidate in presidential elections due to be held next year.

Filatov said lies and rumors are being purposefully put about, though he did not say by whom, either to pit Kremlin officials against each other or to test public opinion over the possibility of their removal.

"I am concerned that there are forces in this country who do not want the stabilization of this country," Filatov said.

Without naming names, he hinted at the existence of some darker forces sabotaging the progress of reforms in Russia.

"We were beginning to improve the sociopolitical climate and economic indicators. But someone disliked it, and we had 'Black Tuesday' [Oct. 11, 1994, when the ruble lost a third of its value]," Filatov said.

Now, he suggested, these antistabilization forces might be getting the upper hand.

"We have reached the point where our own forces are not enough," said Filatov, whose own position in the Kremlin appears to be weakening.