RUSSIA's former interior minister Anatoly Kulikov, who was sacked by President Boris Yeltsin in a Kremlin cabinet reshuffle in March, has resurfaced as a Pounds 50-a-month researcher at an academic institute in Moscow.
The pugnacious general, who pursued a hard, nationalistic line during the Chechen war, has joined the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of Social and Political Research. Unlike many politicians who have carefully prepared plans for alternative employment, General Kulikov appears to have been caught by surprise when he was forced out of office.
General Kulikov lost his job because his nationalistic stance had become an embarrassment to President Yeltsin. In his new post he will be expected to produce two detailed research projects a year.
The general, who held office for three years and commanded Russian forces in Chechnya for much of the disastrous separatist conflict there, will concentrate on "economic security issues", according to Sergei Rogachyov, deputy head of the Institute of Social and Political Research.
General Kulikov will join a staff of 150 researchers at the institute, where his surprise move is likely to be considered a coup for the cash-strapped centre.
Political analyst William Smirnov, vice-president of the Russian Political Science Association, said that General Kulikov's decision to take the research job would both help the institute forge better contacts within Kremlin power structures and offer opportunities to lobby for more resources for its work.
But General Kulikov, who holds a doctorate from the Soviet Armed Forces General Staff Academy for his 1990 thesis on the most effective use of resources during wartime, probably took the job as a means of improving his image after being sacked from the government, Mr Smirnov added.
"Taking this job is really about paving a way for his future political campaigns. He wants to have something permanent now, so he can work on improving his image while he looks for something better. It's easier to present the electorate with a programme of his creation, based on his research and representing real expertise."
General Kulikov has yet to take up his post and it is unclear when he will start his research into economic security issues - a growing area of study in Russian political and economic think-tanks.
Russian interior ministers are in charge of police functions, which in Russia include the interior ministry army, a heavily armed structure separate from the regular armed forces.