The late Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev's son-in-law has been removed from his job as first deputy minister in the Interior Ministry, the agency that controls the country's uniformed police and other parts of the criminal justice system, the ministry confirmed today.
Yuri Churbanov, 48, husband of Brezhnev's daughter Galina and first deputy since 1980, now has another, unspecified job in the ministry, a spokesman said.
Churbanov's demotion, said to have taken effect in December, follows the suicide that month of his former boss, Nikolai Shcholokov, who was awaiting trial on charges of corruption.
Although the reasons for Churbanov's removal are unknown, it appears related to the scandals and intrigue that marked the end of Brezhnev's 18-year reign.
Evidence that a crackdown against corruption in the Interior Ministry had begun came one month after Brezhnev's death, when his successor, Yuri Andropov, dismissed Shcholokov, Brezhnev's personal friend. Shcholokov was later dismissed from the Communist Party's Central Committee and last December was stripped of his general's rank.
It was widely known that Shcholokov, during his long tenure, had turned the Interior Ministry into a personal fiefdom. He reportedly took possession of items confiscated by customs, a part of his domain, and he and his family were said to have owned 16 western-made cars.
Even before Brezhnev's death, an investigation into the Soviet visa office reportedly revealed that some officials were extorting money from applicants.
What connection Churbanov may have had to any of the scandals in the ministry is not publicly known.
By marriage, Churbanov was connected to another alleged scandal that involved friends of Galina Brezhnev. Rumors of these scandals spread rapidly through Moscow in the spring of 1982, when Brezhnev's health was failing. Some analysts have held that they were part of a campaign to discredit Brezhnev's entourage.
The most famous and flamboyant figure in the scandals was Boris the Gypsy, reputed to have been a close friend of Galina Brezhnev, who was once married to a circus performer. Boris the Gypsy's arrest was followed by that of an official in the Culture Ministry in charge of the country's more than 80 circuses. More than $1 million in diamonds and $280,000 in foreign currency reportedly were found in the possession of Anatoly Kolevatov, chief of the circus directorate.
The crackdown on corruption has continued under President Konstantin Chernenko, and Churbanov's demotion suggests that changes are still taking place at the Interior Ministry.