Russian History


Ministry of Security (MB)

Within Russia the largest KGB successor agency was the Ministry of Security (Ministerstvo bezopasnosti--MB), which numbered some 137,000 employees and was designated a counterintelligence agency. The Ministry of Security inherited the tasks of several KGB directorates and chief directorates: the Second Chief Directorate (counterintelligence against foreigners), the Third Chief Directorate (military counterintelligence), the Fourth Directorate (transportation security), the Fifth Chief Directorate (domestic political security), the Sixth Directorate (activities against economic crime and official corruption), and the Seventh Directorate (surveillance activities).

In July 1992, Yeltsin signed--and Russia's Supreme Soviet (parliament) ratified--a law concerning the governance of the Ministry of Security. The law gave Yeltsin sweeping authority over security operations and aroused concern among Russian democrats. They worried because the new law so closely resembled the one on the KGB that had been enacted by the Soviet government just fourteen months earlier. The law conferred essentially the same mission and powers on the Ministry of Security that the earlier law had granted to the KGB, in some cases almost verbatim. The main difference was that in the past the KGB had been controlled by the leadership of the CPSU, whereas the 1992 law gave Yeltsin, as president, control of the Ministry of Security. The Russian parliament was granted some theoretical oversight functions, but they never were exercised in practice.

Yeltsin's first minister of security, former MVD chief Viktor Barannikov, left most of the organization's former KGB officials in place. In the spring of 1993, when an uneasy truce between Yeltsin and the Russian parliament was broken and the Supreme Soviet voted to deprive Yeltsin of his extraordinary presidential powers, Yeltsin called upon Barannikov and the Ministry of Security for support as the president declared the imposition of "special rule" giving him veto power over parliamentary legislation until new elections were held. However, Barannikov declined to involve his ministry in the political confrontation between the executive and legislative branches, urging that a compromise be found. When the Ministry of Defense also failed to support his position, Yeltsin backed down from his confrontational stance.

The split between Yeltsin and Barannikov was exacerbated by Barannikov's response to the government corruption issue in 1992-93. Bribe taking and behind-the-scenes deals, which had been accepted practices for Soviet officials, were traditions that died hard, especially in the absence of laws and regulations prohibiting officials from abusing their positions. When privatization of state property began, the scale of corruption increased dramatically. The overlap between government-controlled economic enterprises and private entrepreneurial ventures created vast opportunities for illegal economic activity at the highest levels.

Beginning in 1992, the Ministry of Security became involved in the war against organized crime and official corruption. Before long, however, the campaign turned into an exchange of accusations of corruption among Russia's political leaders, with the Ministry of Security in the middle. Yeltsin wanted to use the corruption campaign as a political weapon in fighting his opponents, but his own entourage was soon hit with charges of covering up crimes--a tactic of Yeltsin's enemies to which Barannikov lent at least passive support. Barannikov's failures to support Yeltsin led to the security minister's dismissal in mid-1993.

Barannikov's replacement, Nikolay Golushko, did not last long in his job. After Yeltsin's threat to dissolve the Russian parliament in September 1993, which ended in bloodshed on the streets of Moscow, the president realized that Golushko was also unwilling to use the forces of the Ministry of Security to back up the president. In this case, Yeltsin not only dismissed his minister of security but also disbanded the ministry and replaced it with a new agency, the Federal Counterintelligence Service (Federal'naya sluzhba kontrarazvedki--FSK).