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Yeltsin Moved to Rest Home as Feud Between Aides Heats Up

By David Hoffman
The Washington Post
MOSCOW

President Boris Yeltsin moved from a hospital room to a rest home outside Moscow as a fierce dispute broke out Monday among two of his top security aides, underscoring the extent of the power vacuum that has developed in his absence.

The Kremlin announced that Yeltsin had moved in recent days from the Central Clinical Hospital to Barvikha, a government resort where he has often retreated when ill. Kremlin physician Sergei Mironov said preparations for Yeltsin's heart surgery are proceeding "without deviation."

At the same time, there was a public clash between Internal Affairs Minister Anatoly Kulikov, Russia's top law enforcement official, and national security chief Alexander Lebed, the outspoken former general who brokered a peace agreement with Chechen separatists.

Lebed, whose popularity in public opinion polls has been on the rise, earlier tried in vain to get Yeltsin to fire Kulikov. Lebed blamed the internal affairs minister for the sorry state of Russian troops in Chechnya, most of whom are under Kulikov's command. Yeltsin gave Kulikov a medal instead.

Kulikov, who has attacked "groundless concessions" in the Chechen settlement, launched a new broadside at Lebed Monday just as the security chief was making his first appearance in the West, visiting NATO headquarters in Brussels.

While the details of the allegations made by Kulikov were murky, the intent seemed clear: to discredit Lebed. At a news conference, Kulikov charged that Lebed had put on the staff of the Kremlin's security council Sergei Drobush, 32, who had previously been accused of, but never tried for, helping to embezzle $1.5 million in state funds from the Russian banking system in 1992.

Kulikov called the episode evidence of "the actual merger of criminals and people in the highest positions of authority in the state." He said he raised the issue with Lebed after Drobush visited Chechnya and met with rebel commander Aslan Maskhadov and Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.

The Interfax news agency said the security council acknowledged Drobush had served as an intermediary with the Chechens but denied he was on Lebed's staff. Lebed, without mentioning Kulikov by name, said, "Certain statesmen bearing personal responsibility are trying to justify their impotence."