Putin’s Former Boss

In a recent interview with Foreign Policy magazine, former KGB general Oleg Kalugin shares some thoughts on former subordinate Vladimir Putin and the nature of his regime. He concludes with some chilling thoughts for the leaders of Other Russia and other opposition groups.

FP: Do you believe, as Alexander Litvinenko did, that the apartment bombings in Moscow, which were blamed on Chechen rebels and used as a pretext to invade Chechnya, were planned?

OK: I do believe that. The Chechens would never blow up low-income housing in Moscow. Why would they? That would spread animosity towards the Chechens. Mr. Shchekochikhin, the editor of the only liberal Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, was appointed by the Russian parliament to investigate the bombings of these apartment houses and was poisoned just like Litvinenko. He died the same way: He lost his hair, 12 days in a coma. Sergey Yushchenkov, also a member of the same commission to investigate the bombings, was gunned down by his apartment. That is a train of events that tells you the current nature of the regime. Those who tried to investigate it are all dead.

FP: What in your mind then is the difference between the system Putin operates and Soviet Russia?

OK: Putin has partially restored the old Stalinist methods. The difference is Stalin used mass repressions. He would imprison and execute hundreds of thousands, millions. In Putin’s case, it is more selective: individuals who he finds too hostile or harmful for his rule. Putin has actually put the country back to the authoritarian state; it’s not as bloody but just as criminal as Stalin’s regime.

FP: At what point did you begin to become suspicious of Putin, and what pushed you to become more outspoken against him?

OK: Putin? Well, I was always outspoken about him. I know this man’s background better than many others. I do not talk in details—people who knew them are all dead now because they were vocal, they were open. I am quiet. There is only one man who is vocal, and he may be in trouble: [former] world chess champion [Garry] Kasparov. He has been very outspoken in his attacks on Putin, and I believe that he is probably next on the list.