Lebed blasts rival for fuelling Chechen war

Kremlin struggle: As battle to replace Yeltsin goes public, a separatist commander talks of his determination to fight on

The battle-ground in the Chechen conflict switched abruptly from the Caucasus to the Kremlin yesterday when Alexander Lebed, Boris Yeltsin's special envoy to the republic, demanded the dismissal of Russia's powerful Interior Minister, Anatoly Kulikov.

The former general publicly denounced the minister as "one of the main culprits in the war", and implied his ministry was behind attempts to foment conflict in neighbouring republics.

His onslaught, made after he returned from talks in Chechnya with the rebel leadership, prompted a furious showdown in Moscow, where recriminations are flying over Russia's loss of Grozny to separatist forces.

Mr Kulikov accused Mr Lebed of being "engaged in the maniac pursuit of power". The minister, who said he was drafting a resignation letter, was also critical of the Kremlin, citing a "crisis in Russian power".

He said his ministry's thousands of troops in the republic were "catastrophically" underfunded and undermanned. He complained that he had repeatedly appealed in vain for the imposition of a state of emergency in Chechnya.

There was no indication yesterday of Mr Yeltsin's response to the brawl, although it suggests that his grip on his government is weakening. The President's aides say he is working for only two to three hours a day as he struggles to recover from the "colossal weariness" caused by the elections which ended more than six weeks ago.

Mr Lebed's outburst is yet another step in his campaign to consolidate power after being swept into high office in June by Mr Yeltsin. After he won 10 million votes, the President appointed him secretary of the Security Council. He has since placed him in charge of settling the Chechen crisis.

Within two months, Mr Lebed has secured the scalp of his arch-enemy, the former Defence Minister, Pavel Grachev. He has led a purge in the senior ranks of the army, ousting a handful of generals. He has played a major role in the removal of Mr Yeltsin's hardline confidant, Alexander Korzhakov, and the dismissal of the head of the KGB-style Federal Security Service, Mikhail Barsukov. He has also persuaded President Yeltsin to greatly increase the power of the Security Council.

Mr Lebed accused Mr Kulikov of having "a Napoleon complex". He alleged he had caught agents of the Interior ministry spying on him. He announced that Mr Yeltsin had a choice to make: "only one of us can stay - Lebed or Kulikov." However, he later said this was not a threat to resign.

His remarks seems likely to deepen his conflict with Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Prime Minister, with whom he is engaged in an open battle over who will eventually replace Mr Yeltsin.

On Thursday, Mr Chernomyrdin unveiled his new cabinet in which Mr Kulikov remained at his post, despite the Chechen debacle. Nor is the Prime Minister likely to have welcomed other blunt remarks by his rival, including a warning that Russia was "on the verge of a social explosion".

Although Mr Lebed is creating enemies in the Kremlin, his approach appears to be winning friends in Chechnya, where the Russian Interior Ministry is loathed. The Chechen leader, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, has spoken warmly of Mr Lebed's efforts to create peace, saying he "deserved strong praise".

The separatists whom Mr Lebed met on Thursday yesterday underscored their approval by releasing 17 Russian hostages. Meanwhile, Russian and Chechen commanders met to negotiate an order suspending combat operations. But these moves towards peace face many hurdles. This includes opposition from the Russian military, who still cling to the belief that they can win outright.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Management Support Assistant

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Railway Museum, the largest of its ...

Sauce Recruitment: FP&A Analyst -Home Entertainment

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project