Him Or Me

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MOSCOW: Russian National Security Chief Alexander Lebed is about to find out how well his boss responds to ultimatums. Friday, Lebed demanded that President Boris Yeltsin fire Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, calling the minister one of the main culprits of the Chechen war. Not willing to stop there, Lebed accused Kulikov of having a "Napoleonic complex" and called him incompetent. If Yeltsin doesn't sack Kulikov, Lebed isn't ready to quit in protest, but hinted darkly that other methods will be used to achieve his ends. "They are both going to be around for a while," reports TIME's Andrew Keith. "Yeltsin is known for loyalty to his subordinates, and isn't going to fire Kulikov." Yeltsin is on vacation and hasn't responded yet to the appeal, but Kulikov has. At a press conference, he said he would resign if Yeltsin asked him to, but claimed that Lebed was motivated by a "maniacal desire for power," and had a crude understanding of the Chechen war. Ill-informed or not, Lebed's crusade to end the war in Chechnya is being shaped by a complicated Kremlin power struggle, where the newly appointed ex-soldier tries to consolidate his position against Yeltsin's old guard of staffers and administrators who resent him for his grasping at power. Shuttling between Moscow and Chechnya, Lebed continues to work toward negotiating a workable cease-fire. But against the background of these good-news communiques announcing progress towards peace, shooting continues. Chechen rebels are still in control of downtown Grozny, and have inflicted 1200 casualties on Russian forces. -->