Vadim V. Bakatin, the Last Chairman of the K.G.B., Dies at 84 | Big Indy News
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Vadim V. Bakatin, the Last Chairman of the K.G.B., Dies at 84



Vadim V. Bakatin, a liberal Russian politician who in the late 1980s rocketed from Siberian obscurity to President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s inner circle, then in the final days of the Soviet Union took control of the K.G.B. with a promise to curtail its size and strength — only to see it re-emerge under a new name soon after he stepped down — died on July 31 in Moscow. He was 84.

His death was announced by Russian state-owned news media, which did not specify the cause.

Mr. Bakatin assumed the chairmanship of the K.G.B., the feared Soviet spy agency, in August 1991, just days after a failed coup against Mr. Gorbachev. He did not want the job at first, but Mr. Gorbachev was short on options: Many of the people with experience running military or intelligence organizations had joined the effort to oust him, including the previous K.G.B. leader, Vladimir Kryuchkov.

Over the next few months, until his job vanished along with the Soviet Union itself, Mr. Bakatin undertook the herculean task of bringing the sprawling spy agency to heel.

He split off its armed divisions and its border guard unit, effectively cutting its personnel in half. He promised to end spying on politicians, journalists and foreign officials. He even fired his own son, a K.G.B. lieutenant colonel, as a signal that he would not tolerate nepotism or corruption.

He made several gestures of international good will. He allowed relatives of Oleg Gordievsky, a prominent defector, to join him in Britain after the Soviets had blocked them from emigrating for years.

He looked into allegations of Soviet involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (he found nothing, he said), and he gave the Swedish government several dozen documents related to the case of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who disappeared at the end of World War II and was later reported to have been executed in Soviet custody.

He met with James A. Baker III, the United States secretary of state, and even gave Robert S. Strauss, the American ambassador, 70 pages of detailed schematics showing how the Soviets had bugged the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, along with a bag of the bugs themselves — a move that, even decades later, blemished Mr. Bakatin’s name among Russian nationalists.

He was much better liked by Western reporters, who often compared his disarming good looks to those of a news anchorman (he did bear a resemblance to the ABC newsman Peter Jennings). The novelist John le Carré interviewed him at length, as did the New York Times columnist William Safire.

Mr. le Carré came away impressed by Mr. Bakatin’s thoughtful transparency, Mr. Safire less so. “He is bamboozling the reformers and the Western press by using all the ringing words we like to hear,” Mr. Safire wrote.

Mr. Safire was on to something: Mr. Bakatin’s reforms fell short. He dissolved the K.G.B.’s board of directors but kept its members on the payroll. He promised to fire thousands of agents but let only a few dozen go.

He still believed in the Soviet Union, and he thought he could tame the security agency without having to kill it. But he also faced intense pressure from inside the government to keep the spy agency intact.

His counterpart in the Russian republic, Viktor Ivanenko, was a particularly dogged opponent, and when the Soviet Union disintegrated at the end of 1991 — and with it Mr. Bakatin’s job — Mr. Ivanenko effectively replaced him. He and his successors, including the future Russian president Vladimir V. Putin, rebuilt the agency, which is now known by its new Russian initials, F.S.B.

“It must be plainly said here that success was not achieved,” Mr. Bakatin told the Russian newspaper Izvestiya in 1992. “I do not believe that it was possible anyway to significantly reform anything in such a short time in the conditions that actually exist.”

“Thus,” he added, “I do not think that our special services have already become safe for our citizens. There are no laws, no control, no professional security services.”

Vadim Viktorovich Bakatin was born on Nov. 6, 1937, in Kiselyovsk, a small city in southern Siberia, about 2,300 miles east of Moscow. His father, Viktor, was a mine surveyor, and his mother, Nina (Kulikova) Bakatin, was a surgeon.

He graduated from the Novosibirsk Civil Engineering Institute in 1960. From 1961 to 1973, he worked as a foreman on large-scale construction projects around his hometown, a region rich in natural resources and busy with mining activity.

He joined the Communist Party in 1964 and nine years later went to work for the party full time. He rose steadily in the ranks, but by the early 1980s he seemed destined to remain a regional bureaucrat. He stood out, though, for his efforts to reform his corner of Soviet industry, pushing for decentralization from Moscow and limited economic liberalization.

His career took a sudden turn in 1986, when Mr. Gorbachev pulled him to Moscow to serve in the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Two years later, he was named interior minister.

“He was sure that I would never steal, and my weaknesses, my provincialism, were more to his advantage,” Mr. Bakatin told the Russian journalist Oleg Kashin in 2008. “Apparently, choosing me for this extremely important state post, he believed that I could be easily controlled.”

Mr. Bakatin brought his reformist agenda with him. He ended the use of paid informers by the Soviet police, introduced hot food for prisoners in pretrial detention and resisted efforts to use his ministry to suppress dissent.

Popular, handsome and well spoken, he quickly became a leading figure among Moscow reformers, and he was seen as a future prime minister or even a successor to Mr. Gorbachev.

But as the country began to crack at the turn of the decade, Mr. Gorbachev had to shore up his right wing. He fired Mr. Bakatin in December 1990 and replaced him with two hard-liners, Boris K. Pugo and Gen. Boris V. Gromov. Less than a year later, Mr. Pugo helped lead the failed coup attempt.

Mr. Gorbachev kept Mr. Bakatin close, naming him to his security council, a circle of top advisers. In 1991, Mr. Bakatin ran against Boris N. Yeltsin for the presidency of Russia, reportedly at the behest of Mr. Gorbachev, who saw Mr. Yeltsin as a rival. Mr. Bakatin came in last out of six candidates, with just 3.5 percent of the vote.

Still, he was a good enough politician that Mr. Yeltsin bore little grudge. He urged Mr. Gorbachev to make Mr. Bakatin head of the K.G.B. and later, after the Soviet Union collapsed, offered to make him an ambassador to any country he wanted, save France or the United States. Mr. Bakatin declined.

After leaving the government, Mr. Bakatin became vice president of Reforma, a civic organization, and an adviser to Baring Vostok Capital Partners, an investment firm.

His survivors include his sons, Alexander and Dmitri, and at least one grandchild.

Though his success at the K.G.B. was limited and short-lived, Mr. Bakatin made at least one discovery that may have made all his efforts personally worthwhile. Among the agency’s hoard of secret documents, he discovered that its predecessor, the N.K.V.D., had arrested, tried and executed his grandfather, a teacher, in 1937, just two months before Mr. Bakatin was born.

Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.

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The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills



The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.

A spokeswoman for the company, Dani Hirsch, said in an interview that for its 2018 application, the company had not conducted any new studies but had submitted “what was already out there.”

In a statement, the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said “the misconception that Plan B works by interfering with implantation can present barriers to broader emergency contraception access. The Plan B labeling correction will help protect continued over-the-counter emergency contraception access and reduce confusion about how Plan B works and further clarify that Plan B does not affect implantation.”

Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.

Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.

According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.

As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.

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Who are Caroline Ellison’s parents? Fraudster’s mom and dad are MIT economists



This apple fell far from the tree.

Caroline Ellison — who pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to her role in the FTX cryptocurrency scandal, which led to the extradition of Sam Bankman-Fried this week — is the daughter of high-profile economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to his curriculum vitae, Ellison’s father, Glenn Ellison, was educated at Harvard, Cambridge and MIT before becoming the Gregory K. Palm (1970) Professor of Economics at the latter. 

In addition to coaching youth softball and his daughters’ middle school math teams, he writes “Hard Math,” a series of textbooks and workbooks about teaching arithmetic to younger students.

Glenn Ellison is also an Elected Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Caroline Ellison’s parents, Glenn and Sara Ellison, outside their Newton, Mass., home in early December.
Robert Miller

Ellison’s mother, Sara Ellison, is also an accomplished academic. Armed with an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and a mathematical statistics diploma from Cambridge University, her profile shows she completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993. 

Sara Ellison is currently a senior lecturer in the department alongside her husband.

“We were definitely exposed to a lot of economics [growing up],” Ellison, 28, once told Forbes.

Ellison, 28, plead guilty to fraud this week.
Ellison, 28, pleaded guilty to fraud this week.
Twitter / @AlamedaResearch
Caroline Ellison's sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.
Caroline Ellison’s sister, Anna, now lives in the West Village.

Glenn and Sara Ellison were photographed by The Post outside their home in Newton, an affluent Boston suburb, earlier this month. Armed with several bags, they told reporters they were too “busy” to comment on the FTX scandal.

The eldest of three sisters — including Anna, 25, who now lives in Manhattan’s West Village — Ellison distinguished herself as a precocious math whiz at a young age. 

When she was just 8 years old, she reportedly presented her father with a paper analyzing stuffed animal prices at Toys ‘R’ Us.

Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Sam Bankman-Fried leaving Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Matthew McDermott
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Both Glenn and Sara Ellison are economists at MIT.
Robert Miller

She went on to compete in the Math Prize for Girls while at Newton North High School before studying mathematics at Stanford University, where former professor Ruth Stackman described her to Forbes as “bright, focused, [and] very mathy.”

Ellison and Bankman-Fried, 30, crossed paths at the Wall Street trading firm Jane Street. Bankman-Fried’s parents are also both university lecturers, at Stanford in California. They became good friends and she joined Alameda Research, the hedge fund arm of the FTX crypto exchange, in 2018. She then became CEO in 2021. However, the company remained owned 90% by Bankman-Fried and 10% by another member of his circle.

In addition to documenting her supposed foray into polyamory on Tumblr, Ellison once boasted about drug use on social media.

Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Sara Ellison completed a doctorate at MIT in 1993.
Robert Miller

“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is,” she tweeted in 2021.

Ellison reportedly admitted to Alameda employees that FTX had used client funds to bail out the fledgeling hedge fund during a video call in November. She was eventually terminated as CEO by insolvency professional and current FTX CEO John J. Ray III after FTX and Alameda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

She pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Monday, and has subsequently been released on $250,000 bail.

Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Ellison was spotted getting coffee in New York City on Dec. 4.
Twitter / @AutismCapital

Although she could be sent to jail for up to 110 years for her part in the FTX-Alameda scandal — which has been said by federal prosecutors to have lost between $1 billion and $2 billion of customers’ cash — she is thought to have struck a deal with the feds for a much lighter sentence in return for her cooperation.

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Iran condemns Zelensky’s remarks to Congress as ‘baseless.’



Iran has condemned President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks to the U.S. Congress, warning the Ukrainian leader against further accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to Russia for use in the war.

Mr. Zelensky told Congress on Wednesday that Iranian-made drones “sent to Russia in hundreds” had been threatening Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, a view shared by American and European officials. In Iran, he said, Russia had found an “ally in its genocidal policy.”

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called Mr. Zelensky’s comments “rude” and “baseless.”

“Mr. Zelensky had better know that Iran’s strategic patience over such unfounded accusations is not endless,” Mr. Kanaani said in a statement on Thursday.

Although Iran has officially denied supplying Russia with the weapons since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have said that the first shipment was delivered in August.

Mr. Zelensky has said that drones used in Monday’s wave of predawn attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities were from a batch recently delivered to Russia by Iran. The strikes came after Biden administration officials said that Russia and Iran were strengthening their military ties into a “full-fledged defense partnership.”

The European Union last week condemned Iran’s military partnership with Russia as a gross violation of international law and announced new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities over their roles in supplying the drones that Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure. That followed a round of sanctions on Iranians over the drone deliveries in October.

Mr. Kanaani “once again emphasizes” that Iran has not supplied military equipment for use in Ukraine, the statement issued on Thursday added, and urged Mr. Zelensky to learn “the fate of some other political leaders” who were happy with U.S. support. It was not clear which other leaders the statement was referring to.

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