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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin 'Party of War' Routed

The so-called "Party of War," which for at least two years has driven a hardline agenda inside the Kremlin, suffered a crushing defeat Thursday, when President Boris Yeltsin fired his chief bodyguard and confidant Alexander Korzhakov and two powerful allies.


The demise of Korzhakov, Federal Security Service director Mikhail Barsukov and First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets was triggered by the detention by guards under Korzhakov's command of two officials in Yeltsin's re-election campaign.


The two men, Sergei Lisovsky and Arkady Yevstafyev, were said to have been carrying a box with $500,000 out of the White House at around 5 p.m. Wednesday, although they deny the charge.


News of the detentions broke only late at night, when nervous television announcers reported them in special broadcasts, intimating that an attempt was underway to cancel next month's final round of the presidential elections and to effect a coup d'?tat.


But in what may have been a test of strength between Korzhakov, 46, and the Kremlin's new security overlord, retired General Alexander Lebed, 46, by morning Lebed and Yeltsin campaign manager Anatoly Chubais had the upper hand.


"Any revolt will be suppressed, and in an extremely tough way," a grim Lebed told reporters at dawn. "Those would want to plunge the country into the depths of bloody chaos do not deserve pity."


Analysts greeted news of the dismissals as a major boost to Yeltsin's election chances, because the Party of War has widely been seen as the source of some of the least popular of Yeltsin's policies, including the war in Chechnya.


The sackings came hard on the heels of the ejection Wednesday of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, another key figure in the Party of War.


By cleaning of the Kremlin stables, Yeltsin may win back both the support of disillusioned democrats and the votes of Lebed supporters, who came group of Grachev's allies had tried to exert "pressure" on the Russian president by ordering troops on alert.


Lebed repeated this charge Thursday, and told an overflowing hall at Interfax that both incidents were "attempts to stage a squabble after the first round of presidential elections."


By morning, with Lisovsky and Yevstafyev released and television airing reports of an attempt to cancel elections, the stage was set for a showdown at a scheduled 11 a.m. meeting of Russia's Security Council, where Lebed was to be presented as the body's new secretary.


It is not clear what was said at the meeting, but afterward Chubais said he persuaded Yeltsin in a 25-minute meeting to sack Korzhakov. He added that it had not been easy for Yeltsin to fire Korzhakov.


Nikolai Svanidze, an anchorman of the Zerkalo TV show, laid out his own version of how Yeltsin was convinced to fire the three officials.


"Mr. Chernomyrdin talked to the president about the destiny of Mr. Soskovets and he won the game, " he said. "Mr. Lebed, he was the second [to enter] the president's study, and talked about Mr. Barsukov. And third, but not least, was Mr. Chubais, who defeated Mr. Korzhakov. That was the most complicated moment.


"Yeltsin has overcome this dependence [on Korzhakov]. The role of Chubais was great," he said.


While the details of the coup plot which Chubais spoke of are hazy, he said that following Yevstafyev and Lisovsky, the head of Yeltsin's campaign team Viktor Ilyushin, Chubais himself and others were to have been arrested.


Korzhakov said in the morning that the detentions "had no hidden political motive."


"If people come out of the White House with a box full of currency then they attract the attention of the police," he told Interfax, adding that he had told Lebed "to calm down."


But by early Thursday afternoon, Korzhakov, who has worked as Yeltsin's bodyguard since 1985 and is viewed by many as the president's Rasputin, was out.


Following his dismissal Thursday, Korzhakov, who began serving as Yeltsin's bodyguard in 1985, said he would remain loyal to his chief and would remain on the Kremlin team, although it was not clear in what capacity.


"I have backed the president and will continue to do so," Interfax quoted Korzhakov as saying. "Let those who would like to engage in speculations around my name not even attempt to do this. I am not quitting the president's team and will do my best for Boris Yeltsin's victory in the runoff."


Referring to Chubais' statements, the ex-chief presidential bodyguard said: "It was 100 percent lies. I am sure Chubais is a scourge of Russia."


Yeltsin on Thursday promoted former KGB official Lieutenant General Yury Krapivin to replace Korzhakov as head of the Presidential Security Service. Krapivin had been named chief of the president's bodyguard service only on Wednesday. Yeltsin also named Federal Security Service deputy director Nikolai Kovalyov to replace Barsukov, 48, as the security agency's chief. Soskovets was replaced as first deputy prime minister by Oleg Lobov, 49, the man Lebed replaced as Security Council secretary. Lobov also has often been included in the ranks of the Party of War.


As to Soskovets' role in the affair, Yeltsin political adviser Georgy Satarov charged Thursday that the ex-vice premier had addressed members of Yeltsin's electoral team "in the language of threats and ultimatums," and that he had planned, with Korzhakov's help, to replace Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister.


Chubais called Soskovets, 47, the "spiritual father of Korzhakov and Barsukov" at his press conference Thursday. He also said Yeltsin had decided Wednesday to cancel his planned trip to a Group of Seven leading industrialized nations' summit in France due to fears of such an uprising by his inner circle.a