Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin ended a two-week hospital stay Monday and moved to a rural spa where he was said to have directed a high-level shake-up of the Federal Security Bureau, the postCommunist successor to the dreaded KGB.
But Yeltsin’s furtive relocation and reported appointment of a senior Kremlin bodyguard to head the revamped intelligence network intensified fears that the ailing, reclusive president is increasingly under the influence of his own security entourage.
The appointment of Col.-Gen. Mikhail I. Barsukov as the new security, espionage and antiterrorism chief raised eyebrows in political circles because he has no intelligence background and had little to recommend him for the position, aside from a close personal alliance with Alexander V. Korzhakov, Yeltsin’s own shadowy security director.
The respected evening newspaper Izvestia commented in a front-page editorial after the appointment was announced that Barsukov’s most relevant qualifications appeared to be “his participation in fishing and hunting trips” and his frequent appearance “around the table” with Korzhakov and other close Yeltsin confidants.
Yeltsin’s move from the Central Clinical Hospital to a sanatorium west of Moscow in the village of Barvikha was conducted without announcement and out of sight of even officially sanctioned media.
The handling of the move was befitting the secrecy of the Communist-era more than the more accessible style of leadership, which was promised by Yeltsin’s latest press secretary when he took office four months ago.