Then their anger was diverted to the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the KGB’s founding father. A couple of men climbed up and slipped a rope round his neck. Then he was yanked up by a crane. Watching “Iron Felix” sway in mid-air, Mr Kondaurov, who had served in the KGB since 1972, felt betrayed “by Gorbachev, by Yeltsin, by the impotent coup leaders”. He remembers thinking, “I will prove to you that your victory will be short-lived.”
Those feelings of betrayal and humiliation were shared by 500,000 KGB operatives across Russia and beyond, including Vladimir Putin, whose resignation as a lieutenant-colonel in the service had been accepted only the day before. Eight years later, though, the KGB men seemed poised for revenge. Just before he became president, Mr Putin told his ex-colleagues at the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB’s successor, “A group of FSB operatives, dispatched under cover to work in the government of the Russian federation, is successfully fulfilling its task.” He was only half joking.