Russian Elections: The spy who made a general eat his words

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The Independent Online
Moscow (Reuter) - General Alexander Lebed, who has won a reputation for making controversial remarks during his short spell in the political limelight, got himself into trouble yesterday when he accused a Spanish journalist of being a spy.

But Mr Yeltsin's new security supremo took back his words.

The reporter had asked him how he was going to stop Russian officials from buying villas in Spain with embezzled cash.

"We'll work something out. Why should I pass all my secrets over into the hands of a spy?" said General Lebed.

"What spy?" she asked.

"You - a Spanish spy."

"I am not a spy, I'm a journalist. Please take back your words," she said.

It was not clear whether the general, who has a deadpan manner, was joking, but he quickly backed down.

"I take my words back ... I seriously take back my words," he said. He had just emerged from voting in Russia's presidential election run-off.