Today we talked to Alexander Korzhakov, former chief of Boris Yeltsin’s security service, State Duma deputy, and retired lieutenant-general
Question: You were very close to President Yeltsin during the most dramatic times for Russia, during the time of changes. Why did Russia find itself at the feet of the people who were only interested in filling their pockets? Why were the people who were so involved in the first and second wars in Chechnya riding high just because they realized that oil and the oil pipeline going through Chechnya’s territory was a perfect source of the income? Why did Russia choose both evils at that intersection?
Answer: There can be a lot of reasons given to that; it is not possible to single out only one. The Russian economy became very weak, and the living standard was country left much to be desired. The level of criminality and terrorism increased. America seems to be a wealthy country, but there is a place for terrorism there even at schools. Children kill children and teachers. We say that a culture of violence has developed in the United States, but there are also roots of terrorism in this issue. There can not be a unique explanation given to the problem, because it is a complex of issues. We have terrorism prospering here in the East among nations that consider a bloody revenge or vendetta to be absolutely normal and even an honour.
Question: You are now a deputy in the Russian parliament, but you work with those people who actually made you resign from the position of Yeltsin’s security chief, for example, Boris Nemtsov (one of the leaders of the Russian SPS faction or the Union of Rightist Forces).
Answer: I am not angry with those people. It is not about their intrigues. It is all about the situation in 1996 when there was an open contradiction between the following two groups: the people standing for the state and for the market economy, on the one hand, and the followers of radical measures on the other hand. Yegor Guydar made a lot of mistakes when he was in the position of premier, but he made them because Boris Yeltsin allowed him to. Yeltsin was perfectly aware of what kind of team he had when he brought it to power in 1991 to break the people’s lives. When someone started suggesting to dismiss Guydar, Yeltsin was out there saying that he would protect him. Years later, one can understand the nature of Guydar’s brutality. You just have to read the book written by Vladimir Soloukhin, “The Salty Lake.” Yegor Guydar’s brutality comes from his grandfather, Arkady Guydar, as the book says. All the Soviet children knew who Arkady Guydar was, the bravest commander of the Red Army, but no one knew that he was a commander of a death squad.
During the civil war, Arkady Guydar was not only catching bandits and mutineers in forests, he also burnt villages and shot civilians. It was pleasant for him to kill 15-year-old girls, shooting them in their heads. And he was only 15 at that time! Needless to say, he was mentally unbalanced if he loved doing so. This was Yegor Guydar’s grandfather. Arkady Guydar became a remarkable children’s author afterwards and then an alcoholic; he spent several years in a madhouse.
The president found a butcher. When a Tsar sings an order of execution, he does not cut the head off himself, as he has a butcher for that. We have the same situation here. Boris Yeltsin signed the order to carry out “shock therapy” and had Yegor Guydar in charge of all of that. Guydar did not prove that he could do his job well, so he was soon exchanged for Viktor Chernomyrdin, who became a restraining factor. He was a careful, wise politician. That is why the Russian people still have a negative attitude toward Guydar as well as to Anatoly Chubais (currently, the chairman of RAO United Energy System of Russia). The fact that Yeltsin chose them in 1996 was the logical continuation of policy in 1992.
Question: How did you behave with Yeltsin? Were you an independent person, or did you try to say the things Yeltsin wanted to hear?
Answer: I have always been rather independent with Yeltsin, both in the relations and argumentation. I could say what I had on my mind if he was interested in listening to my opinion.
Question: What do you think democracy should represent?
Answer: The things we have arrived at cannot be called democracy. Democracy implies law and order, when a large part of the society lives well. The democracy we had with Yeltsin and Gorbachev was pseudo-democracy. It was announced that the country became closer to a market economy. As a matter of fact, we got closer to anarchy, where everyone was cheating each other. Oligarchs sprouted up. An oligarch is a person who wants to bring good to the country he lives in. The Russian oligarchs simply took the capital abroad, hundreds of billions of dollars specialists say.
Question: All the mass media outlets write about Boris Berezovsky, who was, if not the godfather of the Chechen terrorists, a big friend of theirs (Salman Raduyev and Shamil Basayev, for example). How do you think this could happen and why was such friendship in the picture?
Answer: After the attempt on Boris Berezovsky’s life, he always wanted to kill someone in return. He offered to get rid of Gusinsky (the former head of Media Most holding, which does not exist anymore). He was telling me this so calmly, as if I was the guy walking around and killing everyone. His major business was oil, but he was also very successful in selling captive people.
Question: Everyone knows you were a security guard.
Answer: I do not use such a notion. I was a personal bodyguard, deputy chief of Yeltsin’s security group, the chief of president’s security service. However, I do not become angry when I hear people calling me a security guard. I just keep saying it is one of the most prestigious professions in the country and there are a lot of girls who would be happy to marry a guy involved in that business.
Question: Why did Yevgeny Kisilev (one of the most famous news host in Russia, former director general of NTV network) give you the highest ratings as “the grey candidacy” of the Russian politics? What was that?
Answer: It was his long-term contract with Vladimir Gusinsky. Everything was being done just to get Korzhakov out from the political arena, as I understood afterwards. They realized that I was like a screen between them and Yeltsin to protect the president from those geeks who gained free access to the president after I was finally dismissed. Filatov (the head of the presidential administration till 1995), Kisilev, and Gusinsky were the first in line. The newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta published an article in 1995 telling a story about the criminal authority in the Stavropol region. It was also written that the criminal authority had a guy in Moscow for protection. There was no name given in the article, but it was promised that ,soon, the name would be exposed. Filatov hurried to my office saying he did not wish for that name to appear in the press. The next day he sent in his resignation.
Question: Is it true that Kisilev was a KGB agent?
Answer: Yes, he was a supergrass. At any rate, when he applied to the Office of the Prosecutor General asking them to protect his honour and dignity, the office checked on the facts and offered for Kisilev to go on trial. They told him they would not file a lawsuit against Korzhakov because the facts had been proved.
Question: When NTV was broadcasting reports from the camps of the gunmen, it was actually politically advertising for the Chechen terrorists. Was it all paid for?
Answer: Of course it was. Everything was paid for on NTV.
Question: You lived with Boris Yeltsin in one and the same house and you were his shadow. What stopped you from telling the truth?
Answer: I have already mentioned that I was always telling him the truth. However, Boris Yeltsin was raised in the party system, so if he would had been totally honest, he would have never achieved anything at all.
Question: Do you believe in our current president?
Answer: It is not easy for him to work. I wish for him to be successful. However, I do not know what plans he has; we are again going along that way where we do not know where we are going.
Question: What about Yeltsin’s “family?” Does it still rule?
Answer: Unfortunately it still has its influence. I would not say it rules, but there is an influence.
Alexander Korzhakov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru