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Vladimir Kryuchkov; KGB Chief Led Coup Against Gorbachev

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Associated Press
Monday, November 26, 2007

Vladimir Kryuchkov, 83, the former KGB chief who spearheaded a failed coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, died Nov. 23 in Moscow, Russian government officials announced yesterday. The cause of death was an unspecified illness, according to the Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency.

Mr. Kryuchkov owed his swift career rise to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. He worked alongside Andropov when he served as the Soviet ambassador to Hungary and oversaw a brutal suppression of an anti-Communist uprising in Budapest in 1956.

When Andropov became KGB chief in 1967, he took Mr. Kryuchkov along and helped him rise through the ranks. In 1974, Mr. Kryuchkov was named chief of the KGB's First Main Directorate, in charge of spying abroad. In 1988, Gorbachev appointed him KGB chief.

In August 1991, Mr. Kryuchkov joined other hard-line members of the Communist Party leadership who ousted Gorbachev and declared a nationwide state of emergency in an attempt to roll back liberal reforms. The coup collapsed after three days, helping precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Mr. Kryuchkov and other coup plotters were jailed, but they were later granted amnesty.

After Vladimir Putin, a 16-year KGB veteran, was elected president in 2000, he repeatedly invited Mr. Kryuchkov and other veterans to Kremlin events. Mr. Kryuchkov had taken a higher public profile in recent years, giving numerous interviews in which he praised Putin and accused the West of plots to weaken Russia. He also published his memoirs.

Last month, Mr. Kryuchkov warned of "big trouble" if a turf battle between Russia's security agencies continued to fester. He and other KGB veterans called on the feuding forces to unite behind Putin for the country's sake.

There was no immediate information on survivors.

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