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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Alexander Lebed: All action hero
Lebed leading a political rally
Alexander Lebed was a popular Russian hero

Alexander Lebed was a no-nonsense Russian army general whose plain-speaking style made him a formidable politician.

He was born in the southern city of Novocherkassk on April 20, 1950.

He joined the army at an early age, became a battalion commander in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and by 1989 was commander of the elite Tula paratroop division.

During the 1991 coup attempt in the Soviet Union, he refused to move his 14th army troops against Boris Yeltsin, saying afterwards he "could not care less for democracy", but would not shoot fellow Russians.

A year later, he helped resolve the conflict between the government in Moldova and Slav separatists.

His vigorous defence of Russian interests there won him many supporters in Russia itself.

Political ambitions

When he presented himself as a candidate for the State Duma in 1995 for the moderate Congress of Russian Communities, he won a comfortable victory.

General Lebed used this as a springboard to stand as a candidate for the 1996 Russian presidency.

Despite the huge publicity given to the two main candidates - Boris Yeltsin and the Communist Gennady Zyuganov - Lebed held his own and came a very respectable third, with 15% of votes in the first round.

General Lebed with hat
Celebrating peace in Chechenya
Seeing the threat of possible defeat if those nationalist votes swung towards the Communists, Boris Yeltsin offered Lebed a deal.

Lebed was brought into the administration - as Secretary of the Security Council and Security Adviser - in return for delivering his votes to Yeltsin in the second round.

Peace

Yeltsin at once asked Lebed, as Security Supremo, to work on settling the conflict in Chechnya.

This he achieved within three months of the election, signing a ceasefire with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov at the end of August 1996.

Afraid Lebed might become a political rival, Yeltsin dropped him soon afterwards.

But in May 1998 Lebed bounced back, winning the governorship of the huge Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia.

Although there were many calls for him to do so, Lebed refused to stand in the 2000 presidential election.

Lebed was killed in a helicopter crash near Abakan on Sunday 28 April while on his way to open a new skiing route.

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