Deputy chairman of the National Council of the Congress of Russian Communities, chairman of the all-Russian public movement "Honor and Motherland", State Duma deputy
Aleksandr Lebed was born on April 20, 1950 in Novocherkassk, Rostov region, into a worker family. He is Russian (Aleksandr Lebed's junior brother Alexei is indicated in his passport as Ukrainian, after his father).
Lebed's father was imprisoned in 1937 for being late for work, spent two years in a camp, and after the start of the war with Finland in 1939, out of camp and into a "penalty" battalion, participated in breaking through the Mannerheim line, then served in the army throughout the war and was demobilized in 1947. He died in 1978. His mother, hailing from the Cossacks of the Don, lives in Novocherkassk.
Graduating from school in 1967, Lebed tried three times to get enrolled in the Armavir aviation school, but each time failed to pass the medical checkup. From 1967 to 1969 he worked as a polisher at a permanent magnets factory in Novocherkassk, and then as a loading hand.
In 1969 he entered the Ryazan paratroops command military school. After graduation in 1973, he stayed with the school till 1981, first as a platoon and then a company commander.
In 1981-1982 he commanded the first battalion of the 345th special paratroops regiment in Afghanistan.
In 1982 he entered the Frunze military academy which he graduated with a first-claas honors degree in 1985.
In the same year he was appointed deputy commander of a paratroops regiment, then a regiment commander in the city of Kostroma. From 1986 to 1988 he was deputy commander of an airborne division in the city of Pskov. From 1988 to 1991 he was in command of the Tula airborne division. Lebed is lieutenant-general.
In July 1990, at the 28th Communist Party congress Lebed issued scathing criticism of CPSU CC secretary Aleksandr Yakovlev. In September that year, at the second stage of the constituent congress of the Communist Party of the RSFSR he was elected a member of the Central Committee, nominated by a woman representing Anpilov's "Movement of Communist Initiative" (MCI).
From February 1991 to June 1992 Lebed was deputy commander of the airborne troops (VDV) in charge of military training and military education institutions.
During the coup d'etat attempted by the State committee for the state of emergency (GKChP) in August 1991 he was ordered by Pavel Grachev, commander of the airborne troops, "to organize with the forces of an airborne battalion the protection and defense of the Supreme Soviet building" and, at the head of a battalion of the Tula division of the VDV Lebed for some time held positions near the White House.
On August 19 he met with RSFSR President Yeltsin in the White House, who asked him who he was going to "protect and defend" the Supreme Soviet building from. Since he "was not very clear about the question himself," as Lebed reminisced about this later, he "demurred" in his answer: "And who is a sentinel guarding his post against? From any person or a group of persons encroaching or having encroached on the inviolability of the post and the person of the sentinel." Following this, Yeltsin introduced Lebed to a big group of White House defenders as commander of a battalion that had passed over to the side of the people in revolt. Judging by his own memoirs, Lebed left this statement by Yeltsin without a comment. In the morning of August 20 Pavel Grachev accused Lebed on the phone of misunderstanding the previous order and ordered the tanks away from the White House, which order Lebed also executed. He was summoned to defense minister and GKChP member Dmitry Yazov to whom he reported that any use of force near the White Housee "will lead to a grandiose bloodshed." On a proposal from General Vladislav Achalov, Lebed together with the Alfa group commander Viktor Karpukhin reconnoitered around the White House drew up a plan "to blockade the Supreme Soviet building." On the same day he was ordered by Grachev to tell the White House defenders that the "a blockade, and possibly storming will begin at 3 o'clock in the morning." Lebed complied with this order as well with a minor caveat: "He used a so-called 'corporal's ruse'", saying not three but two o'clock, and transmitted this information to them, urging them to notify Skokov or Korzhakov thereof." In his memoirs called "The Name of the Show is Putsch," describing the events of August 19-20 and his participation in them, he wrote that "behind all this disorder one felt some strong organizing will." In his speech on August 21, President Yeltsin expressed "hearty appreciation to Major-General Lebed who had, together with his subordinates, prevented the putschists from taking over the political center of new Russia."
Later Lebed vehemently denied that, during the August putsch days, he allegedly went over on his own to the side of the White House defenders ("I repeat that for a tenth time, and I report it for the seventeenth time: I did not go over to anybody's side. I am a soldier and I executed an order.") Asked at a parliamentary commission meeting whether he would have taken over the White House, "he firmly answered: - I would."
On June 23, 1992, under the name of Colonel Gusev he came on a Defence Ministry mission to the Transdniester Republic, where the 14th Guards Army was deployed, which found itself in the middle of an inter-ethnic conflict that flared up in 1989, when the Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR passed laws "On State Language" and "On the Functioning of Languages in the Territory of Moldova". The passage of these laws, as well as the possibility of a future unification of Moldavia and Romania brought sharp protests from the Transdniester Republic, a large part of which (except for Bendery), unlike the rest of Moldavia, had never been part of Romania and in which Russians and Ukrainians constitute over half the population. On September 2, 1990, the Transdniester Moldavian Republic (TDMR) was proclaimed, complete with its own government, militia and other authorities.
On June 19, 1992 Moldavia's paramilitary formations launched an operation to gain control of the city of Bendery, which resulted in many casualties. Having familiarized himself with the situation, on June 27, 1992, Lebed took command of the 14th Army and immediately released a sharp statement, describing Moldavian President Snegur's policy as genocide and the Moldavian government fascist. On orders from the new commander, the 14th Army opened artillery fire on the Moldovan army's positions. Shortly, the initiative in Kishenev passed to more moderate politicians, and political negotiations put the conflict on the road to a settlement. Since then, the General is convinced that, the fragile peace in the Transdniester Republic was kept only thanks to the presence of the 14th Army which was the guarantor of stability in the region.
In 1992 Lebed was named "Man of the Year" in the Transdniester Republic.
Lebed's name was associated with the murder on July 18, 1992, of commander of the 2nd battalion of the republican guard of the TDMR Yury Kostenko. Kostenko, charged with murders of Moldavian policemen and of some of his subordinates, of plunder and arms traffick, was arrested on July 16 after having resisted a siege by Spetsnaz of the 14th Army for two days, and attempted to flee to Ukraine. On July 18, 1992, Kostenko's body was found in a burnt-out car of the 14th Army headquarters, near the village of Vladimirovka. According to Lebed, in detaining Kostenko he "...had a direct hand. But to the shame of my people and myself, we could not keep him. As for the rest, neither myself nor my army have anything to do with it."
His sharp statements and actions at first earned Lebed the favor of the "irreconcilable" communist-patriotic opposition. A confirmed opponent of democrats, TV journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov said in an interview in December 1992 that he would like to see Lebed President of Russia (later in 1994 Nevzorov refused to pass a definitive judgement about Lebed, saying that in his opinion, Lebed had "yet to make his choice between good and evil").
In the autumn of 1992, the attitude to Lebed on the part of communists and some of the national-patriots changed after he levelled corruption charges at the closest entourage of Igor Smirnov, President of the Transdniester Republic. Launched with the mediation of Colonel Viktor Alksnis, an attempt to get the General reconciled with Smirnov proved unsuccessful. In 1993-1994 the newspaper Den, published by Aleksandr Prokhanov, accused Lebed of duplicity during the attempted coup d'etat in August 1991, namely, of failure to execute the GKChP order, as well as of collusion with the TDMR's "new bourgeoisie", which opposed President Smirnov's policy of independence.
In the September 1933 by-elections, Lebed was elected deputy of the TDMR Supreme Soviet from Tiraspol, with 87.5 percent of the district electorate vote.
During the events of September 21 - October 4, 1993 Aleksandr Rutskoi appealed to Lebed for support and offered him the post of Defense Minister. Speaking on October 2 on Tiraspol cable TV network, Lebed said that both the supporters of the President and the "Rutskoi and Khasbulatov team" invited him over to Moscow, but that he did not intend to take part "in those quarrels" since he thought that the army must remain neutral in such cases. As the best way out of the existing situation, he proposed simultaneous elections of the two branches of power and establishment of a small professional parliament.
On October 5, 1993, he came to the Chairman of the TDMR Supreme Soviet G.Marakutsa and demanded an apology to Russia for interfering in its internal affairs. On October 14, 1993, at the TDMR parliament session, convened at his initiative, he tried to get the power ministers fired "for complicity in the events in Moscow" and for dispatching volunteers to help Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. Failing this, he resigned his Supreme Soviet deputy functions in protest.
In 1994 there were repeated rumors alleging attempts by the RF Defense Ministry to remove Lebed from the 14th Army (including, to send him to Tajikistan or Chechnya), which, allegedly, failed because Lebed threatened to resign. Democratic mass media, especially those controlled by the "Most" group (like the NTV TV network, the newspaper Segodnya) staged a vigorous campaign in support of Lebed. The General enjoys the support of many prominent journalists. Aleksandr Minkin, the popular analyst from the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, wrote in his newspaper that all the current authority in the country is incompetent and that the people trust only Lebed and Yavlinsky.
After the signing, in August 1994, of a Russian-Moldavian agreement to withdraw Russian troops from Moldavian territory within three years, Lebed was summoned to Moscow for a confidential conversation with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (they discussed replacing Lebed as the 14th Army commander and transferring him to another job). After the meeting Grachev said Lebed would stay in the Transdniester Republic.
In an interview with the Times of London, Moldavia's President Mircea Snegur said he had taken an active part in deciding the fate of the 14th Army Commander. "I said I favored keeping him as the army commander. He is capable of keeping order in the army, since it has in its arsenals a colossal amount of weapons and they should not get into the hands of the separatists...".
In October 1994 Defense Minister Pavel Grachev charged his deputy, Colonel-General Matvei Burlakov (corruption charges against whom had been renewed at that time) to inspect the 14th Army. Informed of this, Lebed sharply lashed out against such inspection, describing Burlakov as a "banal thief, whom all of Russia's prosecutors weep for to see". A few days after, President Yeltsin relieved Burlakov of his deputy minister duties pending an investigation of the charges against him.
The committing of forces in Chechnya in December 1994 was described by Lebed as "nonsense ansd stupidity" and he said that "under no circumstances" would the 14th Army servicemen participate in the fighting in Chechnya. Questioned about the possibility to get transferred into the Defense Ministry leadership and to take charge of the operation in Northern Caucasus, he answered that "if at issue is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, I am prepared to head this operation".
In the expectation of Lebed's resignation, representatives of political organizations of different colors travelled to him to Tiraspol in the hope of getting him to join them. At the initiative of the Yabloko faction, the State Duma released a statement opposing Lebed's possible removal from the command of the 14th Army.
In April 1995 Lebed joined the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), which was not long before headed by Yury Skokov, then on April 8, 1995 was elected a member of the KRO national council, and on April 28 - deputy chairman of the KRO national council (from August 1995 he also became board chairman of the Moscow regional KRO division).
In June 1995, disagreeing with the order to reorganize the 14th Army, he tended his resignation, which, after certain vacillations, was signed by President Yeltsin. On October 15, 1995, the constituent congress of "Honor and Motherland", an all-Russian public movement, unanimously elected Lebed its chairman.
On December 17, 1995, Lebed was elected a member of the State Duma from the majority district in Tula as a KRO nominee (in the federal KRO list, which failed to clear the 5th percent barrier, Lebed was trailing only behind Yu.Skokov).
In late January 1996 he joined the "Power of the People" deputy group in the Duma headed by Nikolay Ryzhkov, but left it already in March.
In January 1996 the KRO congress nominated A. Lebed a candidate to run for Russia's presidency. On January 22, 1996, the Central Electoral Commission registered KRO authorized representatives who nominated Lebed to run in the presidential election. On February 9 the Central Electoral Commission also registered the authorized representatives from the nomination group of citizens who proposed Lebed's candidacy to run for presidency. Soon after the KRO congress, the relations between Lebed and other KRO leaders, especially with Skokov, sharply soured, and Lebed, without officially quitting the KRO, ceased to speak on its behalf. Collection of signatures in support of Lebed's candidacy was done on behalf of the nomination group of citizens - mainly by activists from the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR) and the "Honor and Motherland" movement.
On March 15, 1995, together with Grigory Yavlinsky and Svyatoslav Fyodorov, Lebed signed a tripartite statement against the Duma decisions initiated by the Communist Party of the RF and "Power of the People" groups, concerning the Belovezhskaya Pushcha agreements of December 1991. Lebed voted against repealing the 1922 Union treaty, but in favor of the decisions that Russia recognizes the validity of the results of the referendum on preserving the USSR.
Judging by some of Lebed's statements, for some time after the Belovezhskaya Pushcha he remained in favor of restoring the Soviet Union, but soon came to the conclusion that this had already become impossible.
He believes that "ours is a country in which we shall have to authoritatively force the construction of democracy."
Considering the most realistic prospects for the Transdniester Republic's self-determination, Lebed originally said he favored the establishment of an independent state with strong economic links to Russia and Ukraine. Later he came to epouse the opinion that the Transdniester problem could be solved by forming a Moldavian confederation, consisting of Moldavia, the Transdniester and Gagauzia.
He was categorically opposed to withdrawing the 14th Army from Moldova. In his opinion, moving all the units to a different location would require at least 10-15 years.
He is author of a book of reminiscences "I Feel Hurt for My Country" (Moscow, 1995 - full edition, an excerpt from it called "The Name of the Show Was Putsch" was published in Tiraspol in 1993).
Lebed was decorated with orders and medals, including a Red Star order for Afghanistan.
Candidate to the Master of Sports in Boxing.
According to his own words he "does not drink any" alcohol from December 25, 1993, as he "decided, as a matter of principle, to be the only sober person in our country."
He likes to read in his leisure time. He jogs every day, and likes to go skiing.
He keeps a dog - an old English bobtail hound called Chezwik, and a cat.
He is married, and his wife is a secondary school math teacher by education, but she does not work because "the transfer to Tiraspol is a twelfth transfer during the years of service." The family has three children. The elder son Aleksandr (aged 24) graduated from the Tula Polytechnical Institute (TPI) in 1994 specializing in technological cybernetics. Their; daughter Yekaterina (aged 22) graduated from the same TPI in 1995, and the younger son (aged 17) is a cadet of the Suvorov Military School (1995).