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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Spy chief Putin's cab-driving plot
Volga cars
Putin was set to ply his trade in his Volga car
Russian President Vladimir Putin thought about becoming a taxi-driver in a mid-life career change, claims a new biography.

Mr Putin was trying to work out his likely career path after resigning from the KGB during the coup by hardliners in August 1991, the book says.


It's lucky, I thought, that I brought that Volga car back from Germany

Vladimir Putin
At the time, no-one knew which way events would go, and Mr Putin's KGB past made him feel highly vulnerable.

"I thought then: 'If the coup plotters triumph and they don't put me behind bars, how am I going to feed the family," Mr Putin is quoted as saying.

"Honestly speaking, I thought about becoming a taxi driver."

Putin waves from his car
"Putin the cabbie" was spared by the coup's collapse
He planned to use his own vehicle, a Volga model which had had bought in Eastern Germany while working there for the KGB.

The cars were relatively luxurious by Soviet standards.

"It's lucky, I thought, that I brought that Volga car back from Germany.

"I knew that if the putschists triumphed, I wouldn't get a job anywhere."

Mr Putin, like thousands of other middle-aged men before him, fell back on the idea of taxi-driving.

Ex-president Mikhail Gorbachev
If things had gone differently, Gorbachev could have hailed a Putin cab
"My only concern was what would happen to the children, how could I ensure their future?" he is quoted as saying.

The book, "Vladimir Putin, Road to Power", is written by Russian journalist Oleg Blotsky.

The second volume of a planned three-volume biography, it covers a period of nearly 25 years leading up to Mr Putin's appointment as acting president in December 1999.

It is the events surrounding the 1991 coup which have generated the most interest.

Communist hardliners, backed by the Russian military, sent tanks rolling into Moscow in an attempt to reverse the reforms of then-President Mikhail Gorbachev.


I believed that for moral reasons I couldn't fulfil any orders against the authority I was part of

Putin on why he resigned
Mr Putin reveals that he had a certain sympathy with the coup leaders. He accuses Mr Gorbachev of carrying out a policy of "unilateral disarmament".

But the "old system had already died", he says.

"I believed that for moral reasons I couldn't fulfil any orders against the authority I was part of," he said.

"That was a very tense moment. No-one knew how the confrontation would end."

Mr Putin was spared from plying his trade on Moscow's streets by Boris Yeltsin, whose defiance - along with the plotters' own incompetence - saw off the coup.

Extracts from the biography are being published in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

If Mr Putin had gone ahead with his plan, he would not have been the first senior public official to have endured a spectacular career change.

Former Ugandan vice-president Paulo Muwanga ran a fish and chip shop in London after being forced into exile.

See also:

15 Aug 01 | Europe
23 Aug 02 | Europe
28 Feb 01 | Media reports
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