Russian History


Main Guard Directorate (GUO)

In mid-1992 the KGB's Ninth Directorate, charged with guarding government leaders and key buildings and installations, became the Main Guard Directorate (Glavnoye upravleniye okhraneniya--GUO), which until July 1995 was headed by Mikhail Barsukov. When Barsukov moved to the FSB, he was replaced as chief of the GUO by his deputy, General Yuriy Krapivin. Until mid-1996 the GUO included an autonomous subdivision, the Presidential Security Service, headed by Aleksandr Korzhakov. Beginning in 1991, both the GUO and Korzhakov's service grew steadily. By late 1994, the GUO staff reportedly had increased from 8,000 to more than 20,000 persons assigned to guard the offices, automobiles, apartments, and dachas of Russia's highest leaders, together with a variety of secret "objects of state importance."

The tasks and missions of the GUO are described in the Law on State Protection of Government Bodies and Their Officials, passed in April 1993. As of mid-1996, the agency had the same status as a state committee, but in fact the general statutes describing the government and the office of the presidency made no provision for such a structure (see The Constitution and Government Structure, ch. 7). The GUO's legal authorization to engage in investigative operations gives its officers the power to undertake invasive activities such as shadowing citizens and tapping telephones. The GUO was reported to have an unlimited budget, which it used to acquire sophisticated Western listening devices for use in Kremlin offices.

Shortly after the creation of the GUO, Yeltsin included in it the elite Alpha Group, a crack antiterrorist unit of 500 personnel (200 in Moscow, 300 elsewhere in Russia) that had been involved in operations in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Lithuania. The Alpha Group had played a decisive role in the coup of August 1991 by refusing the coup leaders' orders to storm the parliament building, in spite of the group's subordination to the KGB, whose chief, Vladimir Kryuchkov, was a coup leader. In the following years, the Alpha Group gained a national reputation and became connected with figures in legitimate business, organized crime, and politics. In early 1996, Alpha Group veterans headed an estimated thirty-five commercial enterprises in Moscow.

In June 1995, the Alpha Group was sent to break the Budennovsk hostage crisis when Chechen rebels seized a hospital in southern Russia. Yeltsin disavowed responsibility for the attack's subsequent failure, and two months later he transferred the Alpha Group back to the jurisdiction of the FSB. In 1995, under the leadership of Sergey Goncharov, the Alpha veterans' association became politically active, strongly opposing Yeltsin loyalists in the December parliamentary elections (see The Elections of 1995, ch. 7). This antigovernment activity by former members of Yeltsin's security force raised questions about the loyalty of active security agencies. Following the 1995 elections, Goncharov's group continued to advocate restoration of Russia's military influence among the former Soviet republics that make up its "near abroad," as well as harsh measures against domestic organized crime.

By December 1993, Korzhakov's Presidential Security Service had become independent of the GUO, placing Korzhakov in a position subordinate only to Yeltsin. From the time of his appointment, Korzhakov was at Yeltsin's side constantly, becoming the most indispensable member of the presidential security force. Besides overseeing about 4,000 guards, Korzhakov came to supervise all the services in support of the president's operations. These included communications, presidential aircraft, and the secret bunker to be occupied in case war broke out. This prominent role led to speculation about Korzhakov's influence on policy matters outside the area of security, and his infrequent policy statements were closely analyzed by the news media. In June 1996, Yeltsin dismissed Korzhakov, together with FSB chief Barsukov and First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, eliminating some of the most influential government figures of the anti-Western political faction prior to the second round of the presidential election.