Lebed to advise Yeltsin: Let Chechnya go


But cut off its Moscow aid

June 19, 1996
Web posted at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT)

From Moscow Bureau Chief Eileen O'Connor

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia's new national security adviser, retired Gen. Alexander Lebed, plans to recommend that President Boris Yeltsin pull Russian troops out of Chechnya and cut the Chechens out of the federal budget.

"That would be one of my recommendations," Lebed said Wednesday. After cutting off the money from Moscow, he would "organize a referendum to find out what the will of the Chechen people is."

In the past, Lebed -- who came in third in the Russian presidential election -- has favored independence for Chechnya if that's what citizens of that region want. But he said they should understand that if they opt for freedom, financial support from Moscow will stop.

"We will set this house in order."

-- Alexander Lebed, on corruption in Russia

"I have had more than my share of fighting," said Lebed, who served in the Soviet army in the Afghan war. He made his comments during a live interview with Moscow Bureau Chief Eileen O'Connor.

Eager to win over Lebed's supporters in the upcoming runoff election, Yeltsin appointed Lebed on Tuesday to lead the influential National Security Council.

Why support Yeltsin?

Lebed said he expected 80 percent of the 11 million voters who cast ballots for him to support Yeltsin over Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Asked why he threw his support behind Yeltsin, whom he often has criticized, Lebed described communism -- the politics of Yeltsin challenger Gennady Zyuganov -- as an old idea that has cost millions of Russian lives. (226K AIFF or WAV sound)

In contrast, Yeltsin's leadership holds the promise of new ideas, Lebed said.

"The current president happens to be the bearer of this new idea . . . I support the idea by which the whole world lives," he said, apparently meaning a free-market economy.

Two generations of his family suffered under communism, Lebed said. His father died in the purges and was penniless. "I want to leave a great wealthy country to my children."

Corruption prevails

Lebed has charged that there is corruption in the current Russian government, and he wants to get rid of it.

Asked if he would investigate corruption even if the probes led to people close to Yeltsin, Lebed said he would move slowly and peacefully. But, he added, "We will set this house in order."

During the final days of the presidential campaign, Yeltsin said the man who would follow him in the president's job was already in the race. Asked if Yeltsin was referring to him, the 46-year-old Lebed said he and Yeltsin had not discussed future political plans.

"I am in no rush to climb any new heights," he told O'Connor.

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