Russian raises funds -- for God?
But general's claims proving hard to verify
November 22, 1999
By Rod Hafemeister

He says he was known as ``General War'' and ``the architect of Armageddon.''

He says he was the second-in-command of the 100,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan in 1984 and the CIA had a $1.5 million bounty on his head.

He says he was converted from atheism to Christianity after he begged God and was the sole survivor when his helicopter was shot down by Afghan rebels.

He says he now devotes his life to distributing Bibles to Russian troops and teaching them to behave in a moral manner.

And he says he needs people, including those who recently gathered at a metro-east church to hear him speak, to donate money to help him do it.

But some people are questioning whether retired Russian Gen. Vycheslav Borisov has padded his resume to make himself sound more important than he really was.

And some evidence suggests he may not even be Gen. Vycheslav Borisov -- that he may be using the name of a general still on active duty in the Russian Army.

For years, Borisov's story has been taken at face value by large and small newspapers, including the Belleville News-Democrat in 1994.

Now, after being contacted by the Belleville News-Democrat, both American and Russian officials are looking into his  claims.

In the past week, they have been unable to verify any of them.

But John Todd, the minister from Revival Fires International in Branson, Mo., who travels with Borisov on his fund-raising tours, said the general is genuine.

``He's a Russian general who I met almost nine years ago,'' Todd said. ``I stand behind everything I've said because I've seen the evidence.''

On Nov. 12, Borisov, Todd and a translator who also said he was an Afghanistan veteran spoke to about 50 people at the  Villa Hills Assembly of God church near Belleville.

They raised about $1,300 for ``Bibles for Russia,'' all of which is supposed to go to print and distribute Bibles, Todd  said.

They also sold videos of Borisov and Soviet military ribbons and paraphernalia. The money obtained goes to support the general in his travels, Todd said.

Speaking through his translator, Borisov told the assembly about how God was suppressed in the old Soviet Union, how Russians need to learn about God again and his miraculous conversion.

Before passing the collection plates, Borisov said he wanted to show a video of Russian soldiers singing hymns, something they could not have done before the collapse of communism.

Many of those present had tears in their eyes as a group of men in Russian uniforms sang ``The Battle Hymn of the Republic'' -- in English -- and then opened their wallets to buy Bibles.

But last week, Todd admitted the video was of a public performance in Moscow by an official Red Army Chorus.

Carl Haddick, a part-time radio journalist in Mexia, Texas, said those kind of discrepancies made him start digging into Borisov's background before Borisov spoke in Mexia earlier this month.

Haddick said he contacted Afghan veterans in Russia, the State Department and the Defense Department and was unable to confirm any of Borisov's claims.

``Please understand I didn't set out to tear Borisov down. But on the other hand, I'm fearful he came to our area to take money under false pretenses,'' Haddick said.

Haddick raised his questions on an Internet discussion board he runs and in a radio article. When he spoke in Mexia, Borisov said someone in the town ``doubted God's work,'' Haddick said.

On Friday, Todd blasted Haddick without naming him.

``The person who's leading you on this wild goose chase is on a witch hunt,'' he said. ``That person in Texas is going to receive a restraining order soon.''

But others also question Borisov's claims.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cdr. Anthony Cooper said he could not find any evidence to support Borisov's claim he spoke to the Joint Chiefs of Staff a few years ago.

``I talked to our Russian desk. Nobody recognized him,''  Cooper said.

Confronted with the contradiction, Todd said Borisov was invited to a prayer breakfast and then spoke to ``some'' generals in 1995 but said he didn't know whether that included the Joint Chiefs.

An expert on the Russian military at the Army's Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., said he believes there was a general named Borisov who was in Afghanistan, but as a midlevel staff officer. He had no record of ``General War'' or of any bounty offered by the CIA, adding that such a bounty would likely violate U.S. laws against assassinations.

Matthew Baker, a senior Russian analyst with Stratfor Inc., a Texas-based firm that provides economic and political intelligence for private companies, said a series of Russian and British news reports from late October told about a ``Maj. Gen. Vyacheslav Borisov'' who got in political trouble while commanding a base in Ajaria.

Asked about the other Gen. Borisov, Baker said, ``I do not know about it. I know nothing of such a man.''

 Todd said both ``Vycheslav'' in either spelling and ``Borisov'' were common Russian names, but Baker, U.S. military experts and a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington all said it was unlikely two generals with the same name would not know about each other.

Embassy spokesman Mikhail Shurgalin said the embassy also had been contacted about Borisov by a Russian national who is a visiting professor at an American university.

 ``We are definitely looking into it,'' he said. ``The defense attache's office has sent Moscow a fax asking them to look in the archives.''

Vladimir Grigoriev, who runs a Web site for veterans of the 1979-1989 Afghan War, said his group also is investigating Borisov. A Borisov was a chief of communications in Afghanistan, but it is not clear whether the man raising money is that Borisov or is using his name, Grigoriev wrote.

And Baker described the medals on Borisov's uniform as  ``cheap tin znachki'' -- pins issued to large groups of troops to commemorate an event or holiday.

Shurgalin disputed claims that special efforts are needed to get Bibles to Russia.

``This is not like old times,'' he said. ``You can buy them  everywhere. They are not expensive. They are even distributed free by many groups.''

 But Todd claims Borisov has been giving Revival Fires  unique access to Russian troops ever since he allowed a Revival Fires missionary team on the base he commanded in 1991.

Borisov and Revival Fires have been closely connected ever since. A secretary at Revival Fires' offices in Branson answers the phone, ``General War's office.'' His tours are  managed and planned by Revival Fires. And Revival Fires handles the printing and distribution of Bibles.

As a federally registered nonprofit organization, Revival Fires has to file annual reports with the Internal Revenue Service listing its top executives and how it spends its money.

Last week, Todd said he would have copies faxed to the News-Democrat.

They never showed up.

Originally Published, November 22, 1999, Belleville News Democrat, Belleville, Illinois
(c) 1999, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.


            GWI    Anthrax      Gen. Borisov    Other Military Stories

Mail Rod