Russian Army and U-turn in Putin’s Policy

On October 11, in London, the Army and Navy Club hosted Dinner-seminar “Inside the Kremlin – What’s next for President Putin”, organized by the Defense and Security Forum. The speakers represented three spheres of foreign policy: the Foreign Service was represented by Sir Tony Brenton, former British Ambassador to Russia, the Foreign Intelligence Service was represented by the former head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, and the Research was represented by professor Mark Galeotti from School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, University of London.

A week later, I took part in the two-day “Battle of Ideas” conference organized by the Academy of Ideas, where among many topics and problems that are relevant today, the participants discussed war in Ukraine, as well as the situation in Russia.

I was surprised by one feature common to all speakers at those events: no one spoke about what happened just few days before. None of them paid attention to the fact that it was in those days that one of the most important turns in the policy of Vladimir Putin took place, — the U-turn that can determine not only the outcome of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but also of the confrontation between Russia and the West, as well as the conflict for the new world order.  

It can also decisively influence the development of political system in Russia under Putin and after him.

Moreover, when I spoke at “Battle of Ideas” and tried to explain this U-turn, I saw that it was difficult for the audience to understand what I was trying to convey.

So, I will have to dwell on that Putin’s U-turn, and I have to start with a story that happened 36 years ago. …

                                                                          Part 1

                                                            “Demilitarizer” of Russia


                                                   Choosing Successor to Boris Yeltsin

In 1996, Boris Yeltsin lost the presidential election, and Gennady Zyuganov, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, was to become the new president of Russia.

Yeltsin lost despite hundreds of billions of dollars of support from the United States and Europe, as well as the group of so-called oligarchs who supported and even, with one hand,  slightly financed Yeltsin’s election campaign, and with the other hands, together with the Family, divided and distributed significant part of the cash flow of dollars coming from the West, between TV and radio channels, newspapers and magazines, politicians, producers and TV presenters, artists, singers, polling agencies and members of campaign teams throughout Russia, as well as their own companies, corporations and pockets, mistresses, security guards and assistants, as well as corrupted politicians. Some trusted fellows of those oligarchs had to carry dollars from government buildings – warehouses of cash — to their cars in Xerox boxes, and two of them had been even arrested with those boxes. Those, who ordered the arrest, were immediately fired…

Zyuganov won, but he and his inner circle turned out not to be the heirs of Lenin and Stalin, but communist bureaucrats who privatized communist idea and brand of the communist party. Yeltsin, his inner circle, then known as The Family, and the Russian oligarchs were able to easily intimidate Zyuganov and his entourage into buying their refusal to win the elections and declared Yeltsin the winner.

However, the problem of maintaining the regime was not solved. The new Russian system imitated Western democracy, but in essence it was subordinated and controlled by criminal-bureaucratic clans that subjugated almost all the main structures and branches of power, seized and divided among themselves wealth of the USSR. By the mid-1990s, this system, created to privatize the Soviet legacy and destroy the remnants of the Soviet system, appeared unable to create anything positive to society and state. It rapidly degraded, disintegrated, torn apart by conflicts and contradictions. The Family was unable to regain control over the ongoing processes. People’s support to Yeltsin dropped to 6%.

There was another problem. Yeltsin, the Family, the oligarchs and their Western sponsors managed to resolve the issue of removing the Communist Party, but they could not remove another enemy, more dangerous, tough and ready to fight. This enemy was exhausted, bloodless, but still retaining independent position and the remnants of the former strength, including nuclear weapons. That was the Russian army, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

Conspiracies were already ripening in the army, there were groups of different levels ready to carry out a coup and remove Yeltsin from power. They were ready to kill Yeltsin or to arrest him and the main group of “reformers”, bring them to justice and sentence to death. Moreover, part of the elites, primarily in the regions, as well as part of business groups, even the oligarchs, including those close to the Family, began to rely on the army as force that would inevitably remove Yeltsin and come to power in Russia.

Even Yeltsin’s security system was cracked. Yeltsin’s two main bodyguards, Alexander Korzhakov, then head of the Presidential Security Service, and his closest friend Mikhail Barsukov, director of the FSB, lost the Family’s trust. Those were Korzhakov and Barsukov who gave the order to arrest two oligarchs carrying Xerox boxes full of cash from the White House, headquarters of the Government of Russian Federation, to their cars.

Photo: President Boris Yeltsin, Head of the Presidential Security Service Alexander Korzhakov (left) and Commandant of the Kremlin, and later Director of the FSB Mikhail Barsukov (behind Korzhakov and Yeltsin)

Moreover, the oligarchs who received their fortunes with the help of Korzhakov and Barsukov and who were the Kremlin’s so called «purses», for example, Boris Berezovsky, managed to find their own way to get close to the Family and became the Family’s trusted circle. Those “purses” began to intrigue against their own masters, Korzhakov and Barsukov, trying to get rid of their control. «Purses» fought for their cash and wealth, as well as for the right to use the Russian special services in their own interests.

At the same time, the top officers of the Russian secret services, as well as the disgruntled remnants of the Soviet KGB, began to move closer to the army creating clear and open threat to Yeltsin and his regime.

Yeltsin and the Family needed a new team and a new leader who could rebrand the regime and retain the power of the post-Soviet elite, but most importantly, carry out an operation to suppress protest groups in the army, to demilitarize the army, and also to clean up the FSB and other special services from any rudiments of rebellion.

The successor had to be trusted, absolutely reliable, with experience in conducting secret operations, tough, ready for anything necessary to be carried out, quiet and inconspicuous, little known to the people and the army, but familiar and close to oligarchs, who could accept and support him as Yeltsin’s successor, consider him as reliable and easy to control. This candidate for the role of successor had to have the full confidence not only of Yeltsin personally, already sick and unable to rule, but also of the Family, the closest and especially trusted Yeltsin’s inner circle. Moreover, he should already have his team and be able to carry out the task immediately. He was supposed to be not from Moscow…

That successor to Yeltsin and demilitarizer of Russia was finally appointed in 1996. It was Vladimir Putin.


                                                                 Putin’s Relocation to Moscow

Officially, Putin took power in the Kremlin in 2000. However, he began to act — from the shadows, from the depths — immediately after his arrival in Moscow, after the defeat in the election of the mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, whose election campaign headquarters was headed by Vladimir Putin.

Then it was hard to believe that head of the election campaign, who was unable to cope with task assigned, who was unable to defend Sobchak’s power in St. Petersburg, who was left without a job, would move to Moscow and secretly receive status of the main candidate for the post of President of the Russian Federation.

I did not believe it.

Photo: August 1996. The arrival of Vladimir Putin and his team in Moscow airport. On the left, Igor Sechin, Putin’s former chief of staff at the St. Petersburg mayor’s office, future Putin’s chief of staff in Moscow, who was responsible for personnel selection and decisions, as well as for taking control over oligarchs. Currently, Igor Sechin is the president of the Russian State oil corporation Rosneft.

However, very soon I felt that Putin was creating something like a deep state, something like inner figurine in Russian “Matryoshka” doll, and he began this work secretly, but quite actively as soon as he appeared in Moscow in August 1996, when he was appointed to modest position of Deputy Head of Directorate of Presidential Affairs. Putin was put in charge of foreign economic relations.

Few years later, Valery Lukyanenko told me about the first appearance of Vladimir Putin to office after his appointment in Moscow. Lukyanenko now holds position of Deputy Chairman of the Russian State bank VneshTorgBank (VTB), and in 1996, he was the head of the Foreign Economic Relations Department of the Directorate of the President Affairs. I studied with Lukyanenko at the Academy of Social Sciences under the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1988-1990.

He told me about Putin’s appointment few years after Putin’s arrival in Moscow, when Lukyanenko came to my office with one request that had nothing to do with this particular story.

— When Volodya appeared in the Administration, he was not yet appointed. He just came to my office to get acquainted and to introduce himself to me. He said that he would, apparently, deal with external activities, but in what position, he didn’t know yet. I told him about the work of the department. Then Pal Palych (Pavel Pavlovich Borodin, Head of the Directorate of President Affairs – VM) called us both. He asked: «Did you meet?» We said “yes”. — «Agreed?» We said “yes”. Pal Palych said: “We have set up a new position. My deputy for external relations. Choose who to appoint where: someone to the Department, and someone as Deputy.” Putin was silent. I said: «Well, I’m satisfied with my current position.» So, Volodya was appointed as Deputy of Administration. I have preserved and always had very good relations with him … However, I could have said: «Me as the Deputy.» And everything would be different.

When Valery told me this story, I already knew a lot about Putin. I also knew him personally, knew what task he had to perform after his appointment as Deputy to Borodin. I immediately realized that the position was created for Putin specially, and the idea of testing Lukyanenko was Putin’s idea. If Lukyanenko had asked for the post of Deputy for himself, he would not have received it, and Putin would not keep “good relations” with him, but “no relations”, at best…


                                                      «Volodya Putin is man of the Family»

It turned out that life, like waves, used to bring me close to Putin during his rising to power and later during his presidency, but for various reasons used to roll me back…

In 1996, I worked as head of the representative office of the American corporation York International, one of the 200 biggest corporations in the United States at that time and the world’s biggest independent manufacturer of compressors, refrigeration equipment and air conditioning systems (later York International became part of Johnson Controls). In addition to the representative office in Moscow, York International (Russia) was created as subsidiary Company responsible for the territory of the former USSR. I was appointed General Director of the Company.

During the years when I worked as General Director of York Russia, from 1992 to 1998, the company from scratch took leading position in the market not only in Russia, but also in other former Soviet republics. It took over 60% of the air conditioning systems market and took part in designing and reconstruction of the most important projects in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and other states, including the Moscow Kremlin, the residences of the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the residence of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Moscow Kremlin, the building of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, the Bolshoi Theater, Moscow City Hall and other facilities.

York was the first company that signed contract for the reconstruction of the Moscow Kremlin facilities after the collapse of the USSR, and this contract was for the reconstruction of air conditioning, ventilation and engineering systems of the Grand Kremlin Palace. At that time, I began to face problems with corruption, and the first conflict in the Kremlin was brought by the first contract signed in 1994 with the Main Directorate of Guards (GUO, now the Federal Guard Service, FSO), our first customer.

I won’t go into the details of the conflict, Putin had nothing to do with it, but the story turned out to be loud, but closed and limited by the Kremlin walls and government high offices. To keep the situation under control, I managed to get the FSB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Administration of the President involved in that conflict. It was hard for me, but we came out victorious, and the US and British top managers of the York Corporation, first of all, David Bellerby, played decisive role in that conflict (I wrote that story in some detail ten years ago, and the interested readers, who love real life detective stories, can read about it in my series about the Kremlin’s «purses» — The end of the era of «purses» and Berezovsky (part 13) » Valery Morozov ( ).

As a result of the conflict, the Main Department of Guards had to pass customer functions for the reconstruction of the Grand Kremlin Palace to the Directorate of President Affairs. York International retained its contract, and Pavel Pavlovich Borodin (nick-name Pal Palych), head of the Directorate, signed another contract with the Swiss company Mabetex, appointing it as general contractor for the reconstruction of the Grand Kremlin Palace. We did not intersect with » Mabetex».

Later, in 1998, Pal Palych Borodin was arrested during his trip to the United States and spent several months in Swiss prison precisely for that contract, accused of kickbacks and money laundering, before Putin managed to get him back to Russia. That was how this story backfired on Pal Palych.

Three top commanders of the Kremlin guards, — Krapivin, Nikitin and Sokolov, — who tried to make their «purse» out me and York Russia, were fired as soon as Yeltsin left the Kremlin and Putin entered it.

I had no special relationship with Pal Palych. He treated me with caution and didn’t interfere into our affairs. In the entire post-Soviet history, until now, in the Kremlin, there were two businessmen who resisted pressure and came out against corruption of the Kremlin “Masters”. I was the only one to stay alive…

The fact that Borodin knew me and York was the main reason for me being involved in Putin’s affairs in the first days of his work in Moscow. However, I only touched on his affairs, and then life led me in the other direction…

A few weeks after Putin’s appointment as Deputy Head of the Directorate of President Affairs, I received a phone call with request to discuss “cooperation between the Directorate and York Corporation”.

The next day, the person who called me, came to my office. He introduced himself as “consultant” and said that he had heard a lot of good about York and me and wanted to offer very important and promising business.

— Of course, you know that Pal Palych has new deputy, — he said. — Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

— Yes. I heard about this.

I heard about Putin’s appointment few days before that meeting in a casual conversation.

  • Why just «heard»? — he wondered. — This news is important. It was for him that new position was created — Deputy Head for External Relations. By the way, that is your field of activities.

— Well, I have little contact with the department of external relations, — I said. – That department deals with foreign trips and foreign properties, and I work in construction business. So far, there is no money for reconstruction of facilities abroad, and when the government allocates finances, the equipment for those facilities will be supplied not by York Russia, but by a branch of the corporation in the country where the facility is located … Once, I had something to do with the former Soviet properties abroad, — I grinned. – I was one who initiated and had been involved directly in preparing the Decree of the President that banned privatization of the former Soviet properties abroad. For this, I got many enemies, including among my former friends…

— Well, whatever is done, is done for the best, — the visitor said with conviction. — Now everything will be different. Firstly, Pal Palych decided to create new Financial and Industrial Group under the Direcorate. This decision was agreed with Yeltsin. The Group will have its own bank, its own production and economic structures. This Group will operate both in Russia and abroad. It is planned to attract and invite several companies with foreign capital. List of companies that will be invited to join the Group has been approved, and York Russia is included in this list.

He took out of his bag a piece of paper and handed it to me. The list comprised a dozen of banks and companies associated with the Kremlin. I saw York Russia on the list.

— This Group will be given all the projects of the Administration in the Kremlin, in Moscow and other cities throughout the country, as well as the projects in those cities and countries where Russia has influence and interests. These are properties and businesses worth of hundreds of billions of dollars in many countries. Not only in Europe or the former USSR, but even in Africa. You do not even imagine how many interests are tied up to the Directorate, primarily in countries where there was strong presence of the USSR and the communist movement. For example, Angola… Have you heard about diamond mining there?

I nodded, although the diamonds didn’t interest me. I remembered this detail of the conversation only because a year later this topic arose again, but in completely different context: in connection with the dismissal of Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov.

— So, this program and the Group will be led by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. To make it clear to you, Volodya Putin is man of the Family. He was transferred to Moscow on purpose, with assignment. He is the future President of Russia.

So, that was how I heard it for the first time. There was a man, — “consultant”, — who came into my office and just said it.

Of course, at that time I read all sorts of opinions in the press that either Boris Nemtsov or someone else could be Yeltsin’s successor, but I understood stupidity of such assumptions. In the Kremlin, such assumptions were most often openly mocked and joked about, for example, over the candidacy of Nemtsov, who for the Kremlin guards was a man from provincial criminal group and was associated with Chechen separatists, Caucasian and Middle Eastern clans through his Jewish connections. The special services used Nemtsov more than once as channel and intermediary for communication with Chechen separatists and those behind them.

However, this time the choice of successor surprised me. For the first time, they named someone who, due to his status, his place in the hierarchy of state power, had no real chance to become President of Russia. And that was coming from the Directorate of President Affairs, Pal Palych Borodin, who was one of the favorite pals, convives and drinking companions of Yeltsin. That in itself was interesting.

— So, straight to the president? — I asked smiling.

— President! — he said firmly. — You’ll see. I advise you to bet on Putin. Don’t guess. He has been working for the Family for a long time.

The last remark reminded me of another conversation that took place before Putin moved to Moscow…


                                                                           «Strange guy»

In 1988, I entered postgraduate brunch of the Academy of Social Sciences under the Central Committee of the Communist party. I entered the Department of Foreign Policy, but that year, for the first time in the history of the party Academy, exams and competition, — four candidates for one place, — were introduced for applicants. The professors liked my answers in the philosophy exam, and when I was admitted to the Academy, they invited me to change the subject of my studies and to join the Department of Philosophy, offering as a “prize” to study the secret history of the party, the period when Lenin was not the leader of the Bolsheviks. The leader was Aleksandr Bogdanov. I was told that Gorbachev had just agreed to removing secrecy on Bogdanov’s ideas and that period of the party history. I agreed, and this decision played important role in my life.

One of the consequences of my decision was that for two years, I had to study, — being Indologist, historian and journalist specializing in international affairs, — in a group of postgraduate students who came to Moscow from republics and regions of the Soviet Union, where they held leading positions in the Komsomol or the party apparatus.

One of the students was Mikhail Diaghilev, who before joining the Academy was the First Secretary of the Novgorod Regional Komsomol Committee.

After graduating from the Academy, Diaghilev returned to Novgorod and was appointed Secretary for ideology in the Novgorod Regional Committee of the CPSU… And then the party was banned, and Mikhail was left without a job.

Komsomol connections saved Mikhail. By that time, his friend Aleksandr Akulchev worked as deputy head of the Department for Territories of the Administration of the President. This Department appointed representatives of President in the regions, selected and appointed governors and mayors of cities. Mikhail once studied with Akulchev at the Higher School of Komsomol. Aleksandr Akulchev turned Mikhail Diaghilev, unemployed and former ideology secretary of the banned Communist Party, into representative of the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin in the Novgorod region. In the Komsomol, Akulchev had the nickname «Nightmare».

Mikhail hated Yeltsin, like many of those who studied with me at the Academy of the Central Committee, and when he became his representative, he told me: “He does not even know who represents him!”

However, Mikhail did a good job for Yeltsin in the presidential elections in 1996, and for that work he was awarded Order of Honour by Yeltsin. After meeting Yeltsin and receiving the Order, Mikhail drove up to me and presented me with photograph: he and Yeltsin were standing together at the award ceremony. On the reverse side, Misha wrote: «To Valery Morozov from Friends.»

However, he came rather upset from the award ceremony and meeting Yeltsin, whose mental state was deplorable.

“Damn, I need to run and escape,” he said. — I don’t want to be suppressed and kicked out second time, like after communism… I spent enough time without work. Before it’s too late, I need to transfer somewhere. To the neutral zone, no politics from now.

We met in the bar of the Press Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. There, putting himself in order with vodka after receiving the Order and meeting Yeltsin, Misha told the story that came back to me when the «consultant» assured me that Putin had been working for the Family for a long time.

— Do you know Volodya Putin? — Diaghilev asked me.

— No. When I came to St. Petersburg to open branch office of the company, he was out of the city. Sergeev, First Deputy of Mayor in St.-Petersburg and Putin’s boss, took care of us. I was with Vladimir Yudkin, who had supervised defense industries of Leningrad in the Central Committee of the CPSU. Yudkin and Sergeyev knew each other well. In Soviet times, Sergeev was the director of the LOMO plant (LOMO produced optical equipment, measuring instruments for astronomy, astronautics, medicine, mechanical engineering and armaments – VM). He met us and organized everything. He talked about Putin, who was in charge of foreign economic relations. Sergeev spoke well of Putin. He said that it is easy to resolve issues with him, and if he promises something, he fulfills it … I rarely visit St. Petersburg, there are no big projects at present, and the branch office deals with small ones directly.

Photo: Dmitry Vasilyevich Sergeev, First Vice Mayor of St. Petersburg, and later Vice Governor

  • Putin recently stayed during his vocation in President residence, — Diaghilev said. One of the official residences of the President of the Russian Federation was located in the Novgorod region, on the bank of Valdai Lake, and therefore it was under Diaghilev’s supervision. — I was also surprised that some head of a department in St. Petersburg mayor’s office was allowed to spend his holidays at the President’s residence. It turned out that he was close to the Family, and I was asked to take care of him, to see that everything was fine. Well, that he shouldn’t be bored. I received telephone call from Moscow, from the Administration of President. I was asked to deal with Putin personally. I refused. I said: What am I to do with a head of department in the mayor’s office of St. Petersburg? I was told to deal with him personally. Trusted person. President’s Family…
  • Putin is a strange guy, — Diaghilev continued. — We went to sauna and then to restaurant in the residence. We had drinks and talked. Well, nothing special, just chatting, and I just said: “Volodya, what a beautiful tie you have!” Really, tie was nice. I said without a second thought. And he immediately took his tie off and gave it to me. “Present”, — he said. I barely got away refusing his tie. Then we talked for some time, and I forgot myself and said: “Volodya, what a good and expensive watch you have.” And he immediately took his watch off and gave it to me. “Present”, — he said. Again, with great difficulty, I managed to refuse his gift. I said: “I need to be careful with you. Otherwise, when next time, I pay attention to something else, praise something, you will again start giving it to me”… Strange guy …

In the autumn of 1996, while listening to the “consultant”, I remembered Diaghilev’s story, and also I had a feeling, like a bell ringing, as reminder of something else that happened recently, and after the “consultant” left, I understood what that “bell” was about.


                                                          Atlanta Olympic Conversations

After the presidential election and Yeltsin’s victory, I went to Atlanta, USA, where the Olympic Games were taking place. All the world’s elites, political, business, as well as sports fans, gathered in Atlanta.

York International Corporation was the official sponsor of the Olympics, and the president of the corporation Robert Pokelwaldt, was member of the International Olympic Committee. York Russia also sponsored the Russian Olympic Committee. All the management of the corporation, its main branches and structures, as well as few dozen guests, partners and customers, gathered in Atlanta.

I travelled to the United States with York’s guests, including the governor of the Moscow region Anatoly Tyazhlov with his wife, Alexander Luzhkov, son of Moscow City Mayor, with his fiancee Natasha, who later joined York Russia, and a few others.

There, in Atlanta, I was present at the conversation of top managers of corporations and financial groups, and at one point the discussion turned to the presidential elections recently held in Russia. I did not raise that topic. Discussing Yeltsin and Russia’s prospects, corporate executives expressed their opinion that Yeltsin and his group had problems to keep power. At the same time, Russia was clearly going the wrong way, corruption has become systemic and widespread, and investments and creating new production in Russia has become risky business. China became more attractive, though it was still a communist state.

On Russia, nothing was clearly said or named, but from that conversation I realized that the West had provided very big financial support to Yeltsin, not only financing his election campaign, but also trying to improve radically the economic situation in Russia and prevent social unrest before elections. That included subsidizing payment of salaries and pensions for months before elections. That support included not only state finances, but also money of corporations and banks through the channels and structures controlled by close inner circle of Yeltsin and his trusted businesses and banks to save the pro-Western regime in Russia.

— How much was spent in total? — I asked.

— Four hundred billion dollars.

— Millions? — I suggested.

— Billions, — I was told. — Dollars.

I looked at one of the top finance managers who told me this. He looked at me in silence and just nodded. I looked at people sitting nearby. They were looking at me patronizingly.

It took me rather long time to digest this information. I was struck not only by the amount, but also by the fact that it was transferred in cash and mastered quietly and imperceptibly. Only once that went out of control, when two guys were arrested with Xerox boxes. However, that was the only attempt by the FSB and the Presidential Security Service, Korzhakov and Barsukov, to interfere, because they were cut off from this whole operation. They were not allowed to take even one piece of the pie. As a result, Korzhakov and Barsukov were mercilessly removed from their top positions, though once they had been the most devoted and trusted men in the Yeltsin team, the Family.

In that case, who organized all that “money transfer”? From the time of the start of collapse of the Soviet Union, I knew well that internal circuits, groups and forces existed and operated within collapsing and emerging systems, who tried to hide and preserve the most valuable elements of the Soviet system including its military-industrial complex. I was familiar and even friendly with some men, who played active role in those “deep circles”. However, these were some kind of castes, layers, professional communities, but not rigidly well-organized groups capable of conducting such kind of secret and large-scale operations. They did not have clear leaders and structures for the execution of such operations. Moreover, they were waiting for leaders, hoping that Leader would appear in the Kremlin. The absence of Leader was noticeable, they did not even hide that fact. Everyone was waiting for Leader to come.

What was needed here was a person with small but very effective closed group, connected to special services. However, it could not be the Security Service, the Kremlin Guards or the FSB. It had to be the Foreign Intelligence… Yevgeny Primakov?…

I knew Primakov since the early 1980s, when he was director of the Institute of Oriental Studies. In 1991 — 1996, Primakov was director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, and he could have been involved in the operation to secure Yeltsin’s election. However, Primakov could not be the central figure. First, he had openly confronted Yeltsin few times, and was not fully trusted by the Family. Second, he was removed from the post of head of the Foreign Intelligence Service right before the elections and appointed Minister for Foreign relations. So, he went up, but away… 

In the photo: Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Primakov

Vyacheslav Trubnikov, who succeeded Primakov as director of the Foreign Intelligence? I worked at the Soviet Embassy in India during the years when Trubnikov was the head of the KGB in India. He even played very positive for me role in my conflict with the USSR Ambassador to India Vasiliy Rykov (I wrote about these years, — ABOUT INDIRA GANDHI. “IS IT POSSIBLE NOT TO TRUST SUCH HEROES?” ” Valery Morozov (

I also met Trubnikov several times at dinner receptions in the State Kremlin Palace. He was professional intelligence officer and diplomat, very close friend to Primakov, and it was difficult for me to imagine Trubnikov being so close personally to Yeltsin claiming role of the Family’s shady trustee.

There had to be someone else, leader of a narrow group that acted quietly, through many channels, so that no one understood the full scope of what was happening, and quietly reported directly to Yeltsin, his wife Naina Iosifovna, their daughter Tatyana, maybe her husband Yumashev …

After the “consultant” left, I could not believe that Putin was such a figure. Yes, he was connected to special services, had his own trusted connections in intelligence, which gave him the opportunity to carry out personal and secret assignments of the Family. Yes, he was connected and had good reputation in the narrow surviving elite community of the Soviet military-industrial complex, that came reflected in my conversation with Sergeyev and Yudkin in St. Petersburg, as well as few other former military-industrial complex curators in the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Presidential Administration. Yes, he had good relations with Primakov and Trubnikov. I was sure that he had well-coordinated team after several years of work in St. Petersburg as curator of foreign economic relations and later military-industrial complex, when he was appointed the First Deputy Mayor after Sergeyev moved to the Corporation that was constructing ports, and then to the position of vice-governor …

And yet, it was hard for me to imagine that a person of this level, from a provincial, albeit once great city, was suddenly chosen and appointed as Yeltsin’s successor, that he would have to stop Russia from falling, from another turmoil in its history, and try to start its revival avoiding turmoil, war, bloodshed… I couldn’t believe it.

Perhaps this opinion was determined by my origin, that I was born in Moscow, and my ancestors were Muscovites, and therefore it was difficult for me to imagine that Yeltsin’s successor would be selected in a provincial, albeit great city, and he would be city official with no outstanding record.

Although, in the history of Russia that happened all the time. Moscow itself grew out of once remote province…


                                               Exam passed. Mandate received.

However, over the year following my meeting with the consultant, I gradually got used to the idea that Putin was indeed selected by the Family and was rising to the top of power, although I was still not completely sure of this.

The project to create the Financial and Industrial Group of the Directorate of President Affairs was abandoned. It turned out that Putin, no matter what task was given to him by the Family, could not fulfill it while holding that position, so he was quickly transferred to another position of Deputy Head of the Administration of President of the Russian Federation, Head of the Main Control Directorate. That provided him with more powerful levers of influence.

Next year, in 1998, I met Vladimir Putin. It happened at the dinner reception of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Kremlin. That dinner was sponsored by the charity foundation “Transformation through Cooperation”, created by me at the request of the Kremlin Commander and with the blessing of Patriarch Alexy II. There, Vladimir Putin and his wife found themselves at the same table with my father-in-law and mother-in-law, as well as Nikolai Ryzhkov, the former Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, and Aleksandr Akulchev, whom I helped to get seat at this table, warning him that Putin might will be the next President. Sasha did not believe me, and he missed his chance. Mikhail Diaghilev and I sat at other tables, but regularly came down at Putin’s table and actively participated in the feast (you can read about that Dinner, here — The end of the era of «purses» and Berezovsky (part 21) «Valery Morozov (

The next day after that Dinner, it was announced on TV that Vladimir Putin was appointed First Deputy Head of the Administration of President of RF. He was to supervise military, special services and regional Administrations of Russian Federations. And before that Dinner one more event took place, — Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov was fired.

Photo: Minister of Defense I.N. Rodionov

Marshal Igor Sergeyev, the former commander of Russian strategic forces, was appointed to the post of Minister of Defense.

Photo: Vladimir Putin and Igor Sergeyev (right) in a submarine during exercises of the Northern Fleet

It happened that I knew one General in the inner circle of the new Minister of Defense, and that General received new appointment and moved to the main building of the Ministry of Defense on Frunzenskaya Embankment in Moscow. We came to congratulate him with Mikhail Kolkov, at that time, chief of staff of the Budget Committee of the Russian Senate.

It was there, in the rest room, behind the office of the General, newly appointed assistant to Minister of Defense, over bottle of Armenian cognac, that I understood what was going and finally believed that Vladimir Putin would be the next President of Russia.

The conversation turned to the reasons for the unexpected dismissal of Rodionov.

  • Rodionov was fired based on the results of audit of economic activities and finances of the Ministry of Defense, — General said. — But that was just an excuse. The audit was organized in order to give Yeltsin reason to fire Rodionov. To call Rodionov to meeting in the Kremlin and fire him so that he could not do anything, could not even twitch. Putin solved the problem. He was specially appointed to the Administration’s Control Directorate to find reason to fire Rodionov.

— What was the real reason of dismissing Rodionov? — I asked.

— Confrontation with Yeltsin, with the Family. — General smiled. — The family had business in Angola. Diamonds mining. The GRU regiment guarded and controlled those mines. The money used to go to the Family. Rodionov said: “Why the hell GRU has to feed that drunkard and his family?!” So, the money remained within Ministry of Defense. Yeltsin put pressure on Rodionov, but Rodionov said that the GRU another regiment could take control of the Kremlin, not mines in Africa, if necessary. Yeltsin shut up, and then Putin did it all. He was given the task of taking control over the Ministry of Defense. That is what Putin is doing now. The Kremlin trusts the new Minister. Marshal has good personal relations with Putin. Sergeev was engaged in strategic missiles all his life. Diamonds and Angola are out of his interests…

That was how I found out exactly what Putin was doing in Moscow in 1996-1998, and finally believed that he would be brought to power in the Kremlin. I realized that Vladimir Putin passed his exam and received mandate to rule Russia.

Demilitarization has begun. Putin took control of the Russian Ministry of Defense, and Putin was not going to let the army go free. That guaranteed security for Yeltsin, the Family, and for Putin himself. It also secured Washington’s, personally Bill Clinton’s acceptance and approval of Putin as Yeltsin’s successor. However, in 1998, Putin still had to carry out demilitarization of the former USSR.

Three years remained before series of appointments of defense ministers, who were tools and instruments for the demilitarization of Russia, including career KGB officer Sergei Ivanov, who was followed by Anatoly Serdyukov, who served in the army as private, and then as corporal, the driver of a communications battalion, who was followed by the present Minister of Defense, Army General Sergei Shoigu, who did not serve in the army a single day before his appointment as Minister…

(To be continued)

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