Citing graft, Yeltsin fires official Security chief's ouster stirs ire

July 28, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- In the highest-level dismissal yet linked to rampant corruption, the head of the KGB successor agency responsible for state security was fired yesterday by Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin for alleged abuse of office and incompetence.

Security Minister Viktor P. Barannikov, who began his law enforcement career 22 years ago as a police cadet and district officer, was accused of improperly using his influence to arrange trips for relatives abroad. He was the first Cabinet member Mr. Yeltsin has removed on ethical grounds.

However, the vaguely stated charge against Mr. Barannikov was small potatoes compared with the scale of Russian corruption, and Mr. Yeltsin's enemies, who launched prosecutorial investigations last week of two key Yeltsin allies in the government, accused him of beginning a purge.

The president's most powerful foe, conservative Parliament chairman Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, denounced "attempts by democrats to demolish law enforcement organs by removing all professionals." He announced that he intends to reconvene the Supreme Soviet to attempt Mr. Barannikov's reinstatement.

The minister's dismissal further fed the political turmoil and uncertainty touched off by the Central Bank's weekend decision, watered down considerably by Mr. Yeltsin on Monday, to invalidate pre-1993 ruble notes.

Mr. Barannikov, 52, was also accused by Mr. Yeltsin of serious failings in his work, including in the leadership of Russia's border guard detachments, which belong to his ministry. On July 14, a surprise attack by Tajik rebels and their Afghan sympathizers on an isolated Russian border post left 25 Russian servicemen dead.

At a Monday meeting of Russia's Security Council, Mr. Yeltsin demanded to know "why we found ourselves totally unprepared." Mr. Yeltsin also fired Russian border guard chief Vladimir Shlyakhtin. Security Ministry officials were not available for comment, and it was not clear who would replace Mr. Barannikov, who spent most of his career in the KGB before becoming interior minister in 1990. He was named security minister in January 1992.

Mr. Yeltsin made public his decree dismissing Mr. Barannikov at a meeting with Security Ministry officials yesterday, his press service said. Moving to retain the loyalty of the powerful administration, whose headquarters is the dreaded Lubyanka building that long housed the Soviet KGB, Mr. Yeltsin assured ministry officials that Mr. Barannikov's firing did not "cast a shadow" on them.

Mr. Barannikov had been regarded as a close personal supporter of Mr. Yeltsin, often appearing at his side.

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