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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Council Starts Probe Of Housing Abuses

In an apparent demonstration of its new role as crusader against crime and corruption under tough-talking retired general Alexander Lebed, the Security Council announced Monday that it had launched an investigation into abuse of power in the housing sector in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported.

Few details were available, but the investigation, which is to be conducted in conjunction with the Federal Security Service, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Interior Ministry, follows reports of abuses of powers by officials in the St. Petersburg mayor's office to secure prestigious apartments in the city for themselves or their relatives.

A major shake-up is expected in the city administration following the defeat of former Mayor Anatoly Sobchak in elections last month.

Lebed has made no secret of the fact that he intends to use the Security Council, the body that advises President Boris Yeltsin on defense and national security policy, to further his own anti-corruption, law and order electoral program.

"Normal people must live in peace, and bandits -- in fear," he told supporters over the weekend.

Lebed was appointed secretary of the Security Council and national security adviser Tuesday, following his third-place finish in the first round of the presidential ballot.

Lebed himself has said he expects to enjoy far wider authority than his predecessor, Oleg Lobov, with a team of "field emissaries" to implement his decisions and report back to him. He said staff workers were drawing up plans for reorganizing the structure of the body.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said Saturday he welcomed Lebed's intentions to concentrate on ways of fighting corruption.

"I am very glad that this person wants to deal with the problem with such determination," Interfax quoted Chernomyrdin as telling journalists in the White House, adding that he believed Lebed's personal qualities would enable him to expand his powers in the role without any changes to the law.

Security Council deputy secretary Vladimir Rubanov, told Interfax on Monday the new functions and structure of the body would be announced soon, following their approval by Yeltsin -- after which a staff reshuffle was likely.

But analysts said they thought it unlikely that a clear delineation of the powers of the Security Council, whose functions have always remained undefined, would emerge before the July 3 second round of the presidential elections.

"First of all you have to appoint the new government, the defense minister and other power ministers, before you can talk about the role of the Security Council's role," said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the USA/Canada Institute, adding, however, that it was already clear Lebed's powers were considerably greater than those of Lobov.

Yury Korgunyuk of the INDEM Center for Applied Political Studies agreed Lebed had already applied his own stamp on the role of Security Council secretary. "In the past its functions were vague. The council would meet, its members would express opinions and then Yeltsin would take the decision. Now we are going to see Lebed taking over that role -- unlike Lobov who sat there and did nothing," he said.

But according to Korgunyuk, Lebed's new powers could be very short-lived. "This is a temporary arrangement, which I don't think will last much longer than July 3," he said.

"But there is another aspect to this, in that Lebed is also Yeltsin's national security adviser, which already gives him more power than Lobov had," he said.