четверг, 22 января 2009 г.
The man who tried to kill Brezhnev
Forty years ago, an army deserter fired at a motorcade carrying Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev into the Kremlin in Moscow. The assassination attempt failed and was hushed up, but the authorities could not conceal the extraordinary story.
The Kremlin has always been Russia's stronghold, a symbol of its power. For centuries the imposing red-bricked walls have protected its leaders.
But in the shadow of these walls, four decades ago, the life of one of the most important people in the world at the time – Leonid Brezhnev – nearly ended.
It happened on the 22nd of January 1969. As soon as the motorcade entered the Kremlin 16 pistol shots were fired at one of the vehicles. One man died in the attack and another was severely injured. Neither was the leader of the USSR.
A group of cosmonauts had come to Moscow to receive state awards that day. They were met by Brezhnev at the city's Vnukovo Airport and then headed for the Kremlin by motorcade.
Meanwhile, at Moscow's main airport, Sheremetevo, another uninvited participant, who would play a central role in the day's events, was arriving too. Army officer Victor Ilyin had fled his military base near St Petersburg with two fully-loaded pistols in his coat.
Airport security was not what it is today and Ilyin, also wearing a stolen police uniform, sailed through the airport, even though a hunt had already begun for the missing soldier.
“We were already looking for the man but nobody expected that he would be wearing a police uniform. Everyone was looking for a man dressed as a military officer or a civilian,” Oleg Matveev, FSB historian, said.
Ilyin’s approach was straightforward. He simply walked into the Kremlin through a tourist entrance. It was a freezing cold day and he spent the next two hours, undisturbed, looking for the best firing position. He chose a place just a few metres from the entrance gate.
A KGB investigator says everything was perfectly planned for an assassination.
“The man was obsessed with killing the head of the USSR - Brezhnev. He was ready to do anything. And he picked the best time possible,” Aleksandr Zagvozdin, KGB investigator, said.
The VIP motorcade swept towards the Kremlin, cosmonauts in the first two cars with Brezhnev himself in the fourth. As it entered, Ilyin took out his pistols and fired them together. But he picked the wrong target.
A bullet hit the second car, killing the limousine driver. It was a miracle the cosmonauts survived. Brezhnev was unhurt in the last car.
Another bullet hit Vasiliy Zatsipilin, part of the motorcycle escort that day.
“As our car was on the way in I heard these banging sounds. I though it was fireworks or something. But then I realised my arm was no longer listening to me,” Vasiliy Zatsipilin said.
The assassin had just four seconds before he was wrestled to the ground by security officers. Three hours later, the head of the KBG and the future head of the USSR, Yuriy Andropov, was personally questioning the man:
Andropov: Why did you decide that you are a judge and can decide with a gun in your hands? Ilyin: Because a person should live not exist.
Andropov: What does that mean?
Ilyin: Now people try to survive by any possible means. Something is very wrong in our society.
After a long investigation, Ilyn was considered insane and placed in a mental hospital in solitary confinement for twenty years.
He was set free in the 1990s.
RT found him in St. Petersburg. He refused to be interviewed on camera, but told us that most of all he regrets that an innocent man died.