Prague, June 20 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed three of the most influential members of his administration today, amid allegations that they might have been plotting to prevent the upcoming second round of presidential elections.
Yeltsin fired his long-time confidant and personal security chief General Aleksandr Korzhakov, Federal Security Service head Mikhail Barsukov and First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets. Yeltsin said "fresh people" were needed and that the three had been "taking too much and giving too little."
But the head of Yeltsin's re-election campaign, Sergei Filatov, said Korzhakov and Barsukov had "allowed themselves constant interference in Boris Yeltsin's election campaign." Filatov said this was "inadmissible."
Former privatization chief and current Yeltsin campaign advisor Anatoly Chubais went a step further. He told reporters today that the dismissal of Barsukov, Korzhakov and Soskovets had "put the final nail in the coffin" of those who harbored illusions that an armed coup could resolve Russia's problems.
Today's dismissals follow last night's detention of two Yeltsin campaign aides, Sergei Lisovsky and Arkady Yevstafyev. The two men were detained on orders from Barsukov and Korzhakov and charged with possession of large amounts of foreign currency.
The two campaign aides said they were interrogated for 11 hours and finally released after Russian television broadcast news of their arrest. Lisovsky is involved in television advertising for Yeltsin and Yevstafyev is an aide to Chubais. Both have denied any wrongdoing and Chubais today angrily dismissed the foreign currency accusation as an old Soviet KGB tactic.
Accusations flew back and forth as Korzhakov said today he was "not leaving the presidential team." He also accused Chubais of being a 100 percent liar.
Yeltsin's new Security Council chief, retired General Aleksandr Lebed, issued a harsh warning today that he would block any attempt to foil the second round of presidential elections. He said an investigation would be launched, adding that "any revolt will be suppressed and in an extremely tough way."
Aleksandr Korzhakov, who holds the rank of a KGB general, has been a loyal Yeltsin ally since he was assigned to be Yeltsin's bodyguard in 1985. When Yeltsin was forced out as Moscow's Communist Party boss in 1987, Korzhakov remained by his side. When Yeltsin moved into the Kremlin, he made Korzhakov his personal security chief.
But Korzhakov, who enjoyed ministerial rank as well as broad autonomous powers, soon became known as the Kremlin's "eminence grise" due to his reported influence over Yeltsin and his frequent participation in government policy.
Mikhail Barsukov was a former regiment commander in the KGB's intelligence service. He was named by Yeltsin to head Russia's Federal Security Service in July 1995 and made a member of Yeltsin's powerful security council a month later.
Barsukov and Korzhakov are old friends, whose ties go back to their KGB days. They had gained a reputation as Yeltsin's two most trusted advisers.
Oleg Soskovets had been First Deputy Prime Minister since December 1993. He was in charge of heavy industry and was one of the representatives of the military-industrial complex in the government. Effectively number three in the state and government hierarchy after Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, he frequently accompanied Yeltsin and was seen as a Barsukov and Korzhakov ally.