Planning of Soviet coup began last December, KGB official says

October 26, 1991|By Alison Mitchell | Alison Mitchell,Newsday

MOSCOW -- Former KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov began planning the coup against Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev as early as late December, but he overestimated the passivity of the Soviet people and assumed they would be easily intimidated by tanks, a senior KGB official said yesterday.

Maj. Gen. Anatoly Oleinikov, a KGB officer for 24 years, said a KGB internal investigation showed that six more senior KGB officials had been involved in the coup and could be arrested soon. Fourteen people have already been charged with treason, among them Mr. Kryuchkov and four other officers of the KGB secret service.

"The KGB leadership actively participated in preparations. Former chairman Kryuchkov played a leading role. He started preparations at the end of last year," General Oleinikov said at a news conference on the third floor of the KGB's notorious Lubyanka headquarters. The news conference provided the first official confirmation of Mr. Kryuchkov's key role in the August events.

General Oleinikov said the earliest documents uncovered by KGB investigators were from December, the month when former Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze dramatically resigned his post at a session of the national Parliament, charging that dictatorship was imminent.

In the wake of the coup, Mr. Gorbachev put two of his most trusted aides at the secret service agency, Vadim Bakatin at its head and Yevgeny Primakov as director of overseas intelligence.

Earlier this month the State Council, the new collective presidency headed by Mr. Gorbachev, decided to split the KGB into three agencies -- one for overseas intelligence, one for border defenses, and an FBI-style office for counterintelligence and the battle against organized crime, narcotics smuggling and terrorism.

General Oleinikov painted a portrait of a secret service that had become splintered in recent years, with some officers opposed to Mr. Kryuchkov's attempts to strengthen the KGB and reassert its influence over society. He said Mr. Kryuchkov involved only his top deputies in planning for the coup, because he was aware of dissent in the agency.

"Kryuchkov knew the processes in the KGB. He didn't trust it," said General Oleinikov.

General Oleinikov said that opposition political leaders, including Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, were tailed and their phones tapped in preparation for the coup, and plans were made to detain them.

The investigator said that KGB leaders supported the deployment of tanks in Moscow but only to frighten the populous. He said the planners had calculated that citizens would not put up a fight.

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