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Ex-KGB Head Semichastny Dies at 77

Published: January 16, 2001 (Issue # 636)


MOSCOW - Vladimir Semichastny, former head of the Soviet KGB security service and a key figure in the 1964 plot to oust Soviet leader Nikita Khru shchev, died Friday at age 77, the radio station Ekho Moskvy reported.

Ekho Moskvy quoted Semichastny's wife as saying he had died of a stroke.

Semichastny moved into the upper echelons of the Soviet hierarchy by taking on the job of first secretary of the Kom somol, the communist youth movement, in 1958.

He became head of the KGB under Khru shchev in 1961 and served for six years during the Cuban missile crisis and construction of the Berlin wall. He welcomed British spy George Blake after his 1966 escape from jail in his homeland.

Semichastny outstayed Khrushchev only to be removed in 1967 by his successor, Leonid Brezhnev, who appointed him deputy prime minister of his native Ukraine.

He had no regrets for his role in toppling Khrushchev, who denounced Josef Stalin in a landmark 1956 speech and led efforts to liberalize the Soviet Union.

"I have no regrets and nothing to reproach myself. I believe everything was done correctly," he said in a recent interview broadcast on NTV television.

Semichastny was charged with the task of meeting Khrushchev at the airport on Oct. 13, 1964, on his return from a Black Sea resort to tell him of his removal as party first secretary.

He said Khrushchev's call for rapid reform had made his departure inevitable. But he persuaded Brezhnev against killing him, advocating instead "more democratic" means of ousting him through the Communist Party apparatus.

"In the end, he went too far. Khrushchev wanted everything at once and he had to go," he told Britain's weekly Observer newspaper in a 1998 interview.

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