MOSCOW — President Boris Yeltsin purged some of his closest allies yesterday, handing immense powers to a maverick general.
Alexander Lebed is a tough-talking soldier's soldier who became a hero by quelling civil war in a breakaway corner of Moldova. He has been critical of Mr. Yeltsin's conduct of the Chechnya war. When Yeltsin ordered General Lebed's 14th Army downgraded, he resigned. He later entered politics. His image of incorruptibility is rare in Russia.
Shortly after Lebed's appointment as national security adviser, key Yeltsin ministers were dismissed, including Alexander Korzhakov. He was one of three KGB agents assigned in 1985 to the new first secretary of the Moscow Communist Party - Yeltsin. When Yeltsin was ousted from his position for his populist attacks on party privilege, General Korzhakov stayed in close contact. He became Yeltsin's bodyguard and followed him to power, becoming chief of presidential security.
In 1993, Yeltsin called on the armed forces to fire on the Supreme Soviet, which was challenging Yeltsin's power. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev hesitated for days before bringing in the tanks. General Grachev, the architect of the Chechen war, was suspected of corrupt arms profiteering in the early 1990s, and is the single least popular figure in Russian politics.
Mikhail Barsukov was a close ally of Korzhakov. He was a career member of the Kremlin guard, a special division of the Soviet KGB. Last summer, he was appointed head of the KGB's successor, the Federal Security Service.
Oleg Soskovets has represented the hard-line opposition to free-marketeers on Yeltsin's team. He represented strong state support and import protection for key industries. In 1993, Yeltsin put him in charge of industrial policy.