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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Interior Minister Responds to Sacking

Appearing in public for the first time since his sudden dismissal as interior minister, General Anatoly Kulikov said only a few bitter words Friday about his sacking.

"The time has not yet come when one can serve one's country honestly without being punished," Kulikov told journalists, saying he was quoting one of Napoleon's marshals. "Unfortunately, these words can be applied to the situation in which I find myself today."

Kulikov was singled out for harsh treatment in the decree Monday in which President Boris Yeltsin dismissed the entire Cabinet.

While other Cabinet members were told to remain at their posts, Kulikov, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais were told to step down immediately.

Both Chernomyrdin and Chubais quickly accepted their dismissals loyally, but Kulikov waited until Friday to make his response.

After an emotional reunion with friends at the headquarters of the interior forces, which Kulikov commanded before he was appointed minister, the general officially reopened the forces' newly renovated museum. He made his brief comments as he left the museum to get into a waiting limousine.

Kulikov, who commanded troops in secessionist Chechnya during the most brutal period of the 21-month war, was appointed minister by Yeltsin in February 1996 and given sweeping powers to coordinate the work of the State Tax Service, the tax police, the currency and export commission and the customs committee.

As minister, he is best known for beefing up the Interior Ministry's heavil y armed troops. Kulikov also claimed he was responsible for a significant drop in the crime rate, as portrayed in official statistics last year.

The daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta speculated this week that Yeltsin fired Kulikov believing that if he were to die or be incapacitated before the elections in 2000, Kulikov would use the troops to influence the selection of a successor.

Kulikov was a close political ally of Chernomyrdin and of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, both of whom have ill-concealed presidential ambitions. Luzhkov this week publicly condemned Yeltsin's decision to dismiss Kulikov.

Although slighted by Yeltsin's decision to ditch him, Kulikov said Friday he still backed the president's own conception of using Russia's 220,000 interior troops, including various crack task forces and rapid reaction units, to directly bolster the law enforcement capacity of the 300,000-strong police force.

"Today, the interior forces perform an increasingly significant and responsible role and are emerging into the forefront of the fight against crime," said Kuliko, adding that under Yeltsin's plan "the forces would become a mainstay in the battle against street crime."

Kulikov was joined at the ceremony by Sergei Stepashin, Russia's justice minister who was dismissed along with the rest of the Cabinet this week. A former head of the Federal Security Service, Stepashin is rumored to be on a shortlist for the post of interior minister, as is another of the Friday museum visitors, the deputy head of the presidential administration, Yevgeny Sevastyanov. Both fended off questions about their possible appointment to the post.