Last KGB boss dies in Moscow

One of the last chiefs of the Soviet secret service, the KGB, has died in Moscow at the age of 83. During the political crisis of 1991, Vladimir Kryuchkov spearheaded a failed coup attempt against the president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.

A Communist Party member since 1944, Vladimir Kryuchkov headed the KGB from 1988 until August 1991, just months before the break-up of the Soviet Union. An army general, he first joined the agency in the late 1960s.

Kryuchkov died after a long illness. The funeral service is to be held on Tuesday, November 27.

Afghanistan intervention supporter

Born in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, he rose through the local party branch and then studied at the Soviet diplomatic academy, before working at the Soviet embassy in Hungary in the late 1950s.

In 1956 he was among those responsible for the Soviet crackdown against anti-Communist protesters in Budapest. Later as Moscow's chief spymaster, he was a key supporter of the 1979 military intervention in Afghanistan.

Ousting Gorbachev

During the August Coup of 1991, Kryuchkov was among the party of eight that led the State Emergency Committee, which temporarily ousted the president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. They believed the reforms threatened the very foundations of the Soviet Union.

The coup weakened Gorbachev and played into the hands of Boris Yeltsin, thus hastening the demise of the Soviet Union.

Kryuchkov himself was sure that had they allowed bloodshed, the USSR would have survived.

Kryuchkov was then imprisoned for his participation in the failed plot. However, in 1994 the Russian State Duma freed him in an amnesty.

Praising Putin

During the latter years of his life, he spent much of his time at a country cottage near Moscow, making the occasional appearance in the media to direct harsh comments towards the U.S. He also found time to praise President Vladimir Putin for restoring the country’s influence on the world scene.