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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Fires Aide as Rebels Walk Free

President Boris Yeltsin fired his main security chief, Nikolai Golushko, on Monday, after the president's staff failed to block a parliament amnesty of his bitterest political enemies and allowed them to walk free.


Golushko followed Public Prosecutor Alexei Kazannik, who resigned on Saturday, in becoming the second major political casualty of the latest crisis to hit Yeltsin's troubled presidency.


The decree firing Golushko included no explanation. But Itar-Tass, the official news agency, reported that "not the least part" in his dismissal was played by his failure to stop the release from Lefortovo prison of former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, former parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov and the other leaders of last October's rebellion against Yeltsin.


Golushko, a former career KGB official, had headed the Security Ministry, the successor organization to the KGB and then was appointed head of the new Federal Counterintelligence Service, when the ministry was disbanded in turn last December.


Although Lefortovo was nominally handed over to the control of the prosecutor's office last week, Golushko's service still managed the prison's finances and employed its guards.


Golushko had always appeared to be a reluctant Yeltsin supporter. At a press conference last October he said he still had great respect for his predecessor and former superior Viktor Barannikov, who was jailed after the violence of Oct. 3 -4.


Barannikov, who is in hospital suffering from heart problems, was the only Lefortovo inmate who did not make a public exit from the prison on Saturday as one by one the leaders of last October's resistance to Yeltsin emerged from the jail to cheering crowds of supporters.


An aide to Rutskoi, Andrei Fyodorov, told Reuters the former vice president, who is still only 46, was likely to run for president in the next elections.


Khasbulatov told Interfax he felt a "strong disgust for contemporary politicians" and would return to academia.


Viktor Anpilov, leader of the extremist Worker's Russia party who helped lead the attack on the Ostankino television center on Oct. 3, told Interfax that he planned to "raise workers' collectives in a struggle with the regime." On Sunday he addressed a small impromptu rally in Teatralnaya Ploshchad.


Other men released included Vladislav Achalov and Andrei Dunayev, who were appointed defense minster and interior minister in Rutskoi's alternative government in September; General Albert Makashov, who led the assault at Ostankino; Ilya Konstantinov, a leader of the extremist alliance the National Salvation Front and the neo-fascist leader Alexander Barkashov.


The release of this phalanx of adversaries, despite Yeltsin's efforts to stop it, threw the Kremlin into chaos at the weekend.


Kazannik, in a farewell speech to colleagues at the Public Prosecutor's Office on Monday reported by Interfax, said Yeltsin had directed him, Golushko and Interior Minister Viktor Yerin to head off the amnesty's implementation.


He said Yeltsin pressed him by telephone and told him to "look for a way out" of the situation that would keep the Lefortovo men behind bars. But Kazannik said he could see no legal objections to the Duma resolution and would not stand in its way.


Yeltsin also sent an eleventh-hour letter to parliamentary speaker Ivan Rybkin on Saturday, questioning the validity of the amnesty resolution. But by that point Deputy Public Prosecutor Vladimir Kravtsev was already signing an order for the release of the prisoners.


Kazannik said he had resigned because he was being asked to break the law. "Let the people blush, who are wiping their feet on the law to lift themselves higher," he said in his speech.


The Duma's resolution also granted an amnesty to the 12 coup-plotters of August 1991, effectively marking an end to the long, inconclusive trial of the men who led the attempt to overthrow Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.


The Supreme Court is due to rule whether their case is now over on Tuesday.


Politicians divided sharply in their interpretation of the releases. Rybkin said he regarded the amnesty as an act of national reconciliation and urged those set free to treat it in that spirit.


"Forms of political street brawling, gladiator-fighting are unacceptable in Russia," he told Itar-Tass. "If someone wants to recreate these he can be assured: the State Duma and the president will put these hotheads in their place."


Nationalities Minister Sergei Shakhrai, who was one of the instigators of the Duma resolution, told a press conference that "both sides" had been responsible for the October bloodshed and it was time for Russia to "leave these events to the court of history."


However, presidential press secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov, in a statement carried by Itar-Tass on Saturday, said that "people whose hands and conscience took part in bloodshed, people who were ready to push Russia into the bloody pit of civil war have been set free without a trial."