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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Control of Ex-KGB Sparks Row

The president's office and the Justice Ministry are engaged in a dispute over which body should direct the Federal Counterintelligence Service, once known as the KGB.

Vladimir Zimonenko, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, said Wednesday that his organization favors restructuring the service by transferring it to the Justice Ministry.

"It is bad when military men run the show in the country," he said, adding that civilians should run the agency.

"But everything depends on the president," he said. "It is for him to decide, because he has the final say."

Vladimir Klimenko, who is involved in national security in President Boris Yeltsin's office, said, however, there was no need to transfer the Federal Counterintelligence Service to the Justice Ministry because the service "is not a law and order organization," but "a secret service" in which the military must play a significant role.

He said there are no plans to transfer the service to the Justice Ministry.

The service has undergone dizzying transformations since the KGB name was changed to the Security Ministry in 1991. In December 1993 it became the Federal Counterintelligence Service in the aftermath of the October uprising.

For his part, Zimonenko said,"Civilians, not people with straps on their shoulders, should protect a democratic society," adding that the ministry's plan is modeled after the American FBI, which is under the control of the U.S. Justice Department.

Klimenko did not rule out the idea of further restructuring. The main idea is to create "a special service independent from other ministries and subordinated to the president," he said.

"The main function of the future special service will be to fight intelligence services of foreign states on the territory of the country," he said. Spying on politicians should be abolished, he added.

Klimenko gave a different explanation for the firing by Yeltsin this week of Nikolai Golushko as head of the service.

Officially he resigned for family reasons but the more common rationale was his failure to carry out Yeltsin's orders to block the release from prison Saturday of seven leaders of the October uprising who are bitter opponents of the president.

Klimenko, however, cited Golushko's inability to carry out further reforms of the former KGB.

"He is over 60 and he had a big load," Klimenko said.

But Golushko himself supported the view that he was sacked because he failed to carry out Yeltsin's orders.

He told Izvestia in an interview that his so-called resignation sounded "unusual." "I will not hide the fact that my ideas are close to the ideas of Kazannik," he said, a reference to Prosecutor General Alexei Kazannik, who resigned Saturday because he could not constitutionally keep the prisoners incarcerated after the State Duma voted for an amnesty.

Klimenko said Lieutenant General Sergei Stepashin, Golushko's deputy, was a potential candidate to head the service.

Stepashin has been a prime advocate of restructuring the KGB and creating a new special service with new functions. In September 1991, he wrote an article for Rossiyskaya Gazeta calling for the KGB to be abolished. One month later, the KGB was transformed to the Security Ministry.

Tamara Grigoryants, a human rights activist, praised the suggestion to transfer the ex-KGB to the Justice Ministry but said such decisions hardly depend on the ministry's opinion.

She added that the ministry "was very passive in the establishment of law and order in this country," and instead was only involved in minor issues.