Yeltsin dismisses security minister: New crisis for Russian leader as conservatives back official accused of nepotism

BORIS YELTSIN, who has returned early from holiday to find his government in disarray and his conservative opponents on the offensive, yesterday accused his Security Minister, Viktor Barannikov, of mismanagement and nepotism and sacked him. Almost immediately Mr Yeltsin's arch-rival, the parliamentary chairman, Ruslan Khasbulatov, defied the Russian President by saying that Russia needed General Barannikov's professional skills and that MPs should assemble to restore him to his post.

Despite his victory in the April referendum and his attempts to draw up a new Russian constitution, Mr Yeltsin still finds himself mired in a power struggle with the Soviet-era parliament and every move he makes is countered by Mr Khasbulatov. Accusations and counter-accusations of incompetence and corruption are among the main weapons of this dirty political war.

Mr Yeltsin does have some reason to be dissatisfied with General Barannikov. Earlier this month 25 Russian soldiers helping newly independent Tajikistan to guard its frontier with Afghanistan were killed in an artillery attack launched from Afghan territory by rebel Tajiks who were the losers in last year's civil war. On Monday Mr Yeltsin sacked the commander of the border guards and let General Barannikov off with an official reprimand for having been 'completely unprepared' for the cross-border attack.

What then made Mr Yeltsin decide to sack the general yesterday? Tass said the President told leaders of the Security Ministry, formerly the KGB, that General Barannikov had 'violated ethical norms' by using 'commercial structures' to send his relatives on trips abroad. Perhaps Mr Yeltsin had just found out about this and it added to his anger over the security lapse on the border. Or perhaps the President sensed that General Barannikov was not loyal to him anymore. Certainly Mr Khasbulatov was quick to rush to the general's defence, calling his dismissal 'an attempt . . . to crush the organs of law and order by stripping them of all professionals'.

Mr Yeltsin cut short his holiday in northern Russia on Sunday on the advice of liberals who said that, in his absence, the parliament was mounting a new challenge to his market reforms. The newspaper Izvestia went as far as to hint that another coup was being plotted, two years after hardliners attempted to seize power from Mikhail Gorbachev. Among parliament's unilateral steps which so concerned the liberals were votes to slow down privatisation, double the budget deficit and prosecute one of the architects of Mr Yeltsin's reforms, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko, for alleged embezzlement.

As if this were not enough, Mr Yeltsin also came home to a huge row in government and society about a money reform launched by the Central Bank on Saturday. It is still not clear whether the President knew about and approved of the decision to withdraw pre-1993 roubles from circulation but he is certainly getting the blame for it from angry members of the public, and his decree on Monday increasing the amount of old money which can be changed for new has only partly calmed their panic and fury.

Yesterday the head of the Central Bank, Viktor Gerashchenko, defended the reform, saying the aim was to force other former Soviet republics still using the rouble to decide whether they wanted their own currencies or whether they would stick with the Russian unit and accept the leading role of Moscow in their economic decision-making that that would entail.

But, despite denials of a split from Economics Minister Oleg Lobov, the cabinet was clearly divided over the reform supported by the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin. The Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai and Finance Minister, Boris Fyodorov, both liberals, have attacked it as economically illiterate and likely to aggravate the delicate political situation.

The interesting question is what was Mr Khasbulatov's role? Although Mr Gerashchenko said yesterday that the 'top leadership of the country' had been informed in advance of the money reform, the parliamentary chairman has denied that he was consulted. He certainly should have known about it for the Central Bank answers to parliament, not the government.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn