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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin's Silence Puts FSB Head in Limbo




The Federal Security Service is locked in limbo while the government and the State Duma haggle over the fate of its acting director, Vladimir Putin, analysts and sources close to the agency said Thursday.


The Federal Security Service, or FSB, is expected to play a pivotal role in the event that Russia's economic meltdown degenerates into popular unrest.


But President Boris Yeltsin, who approved the rest of the so-called power ministers for posts in the proposed Cabinet Wednesday, pointedly left Putin's name off the list. At the same time, radical reforms inside the FSB initiated by Putin are angering many security operatives.


Analysts said Putin may be fired because he is unloved by legislators in both houses of parliament, and therefore his presence in the Cabinet could be an obstacle in winning State Duma approval for the acting prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.


Mark Galiotti of the organized Russian crime research unit at the University of Keele in England said Thursday that the prospect of Putin's dismissal "could become a useful bargaining tool" for Yeltsin in his battle with parliament.


Putin angered the Duma by hinting this week that his agency will resort to force if the opposition's campaign for Yeltsin's resignation takes a violent turn.


That statement prompted a furious response from the Communist chief of the Duma's security committee, Viktor Ilyukhin, who warned that "every shot fired at the State Duma will fire back with a great misery at them."


Neither would the Federation Council, parliament's upper house comprising regional leaders, mourn Putin's departure.


Prior to his appointment to the FSB in July, Putin had headed the presidential administration's main audit directorate as well as overseeing the Kremlin's relations with the regions.


In this capacity, he uncovered wrong-doing by regional leaders, and then used the compromising evidence to force them to follow the Kremlin's edict, analysts said.


"He has become a real allergen to the parliament," said Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center.


Nikolai Leonov, former chief of the KGB's analytical department, agreed that Putin is far from being a "perfect choice" for the once powerful service.


Leonov noted, however, that Putin's departure would create further chaos in an agency which has seen seven directors in eight years. "It is a pernicious tradition that each new director fires his predecessor's proteges and installs his own," he said.


Meanwhile, the sweeping reforms and personnel cuts being implemented by Putin are demoralizing FSB operatives.


Putin has already started replacing top commanders with his former colleagues from the service's St. Petersburg area branch.


In addition, some 2,000 of the 6,000 officers in the FSB's central apparatus are to be fired in the next few months. Officers have been notified of the measure, but do not yet know which of them will lose their jobs.


To make way for the reorganization, the entire central apparatus staff has been temporarily fired, though they still receive pay and are fulfilling their duties.


Some have already submitted resignation requests, unable to stand the psychological pressure of the pending cuts


"According to Leonov, Putin's uncertain future and the reorganization measures can only damage the agency's performance.


"Just tell me who will work, who will obey orders to suppress the opposition if he doesn't know whether he will keep his job or get fired tomorrow?" the former KGB officer said.