Lebed was born in the city of Valga, Estonian SSR. He joined the Soviet Army in 1981 starting his military service in Airborne Troops (Russian: Воздушно-десантные войска). He first trained in the 44th Airborne Division in Gaižiūnai in the Lithuanian SSR and later served in the 57th Independent Air Assault Brigade in Taldykorgan in the Kazakh SSR.
Opting for a career change, he entered the Lomonosov Military Aviation Technical School graduating as a flight engineer in 1986. He served on combat operations in Afghanistan in 1986–87 as an aircrew member in a helicopter regiment.
After his return from Afghanistan, he served successively in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, in the Trans-Baikal and Siberian military districts in the 329th Transport & Combat Helicopter Regiment and in the 337th Independent Helicopter Regiment.
His service had earned him the Order "For Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces" 3rd class and three Orders of the Red Star.
He retired to the reserves in 1994 and worked for the Afghan Veterans benevolent fund.
He joined a group of Russian veterans who volunteered in the Kosovo War (1998–99). In 1999, he went to the North Caucasus as a volunteer in the combined militias after purchasing his own equipment and flying to Makhachkala in Dagestan. When military operations moved into Chechnya in October 1999, he went to Moscow and re enlisted in the service signing a contract with the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and immediately returned to Chechnya to participate in counter-terrorism operations. From 1999 to 2007, he made over 10 trips to Chechnya and participated in special operations in the areas of the cities of Gudermes and Argun, as well as in the suburbs of Grozny and the Vedeno region.
In 2003, while engaged in combat in the Ulus-Kert mountains, he stepped on a mine and lost a foot. He refused to resign from the Armed Forces, his superior physical fitness allowed him to remain in the service, to carry on parachuting (over 840 jumps) and to still do martial arts with the prosthesis.
On January 9, 2005 his patrol was ambushed, refusing to let his injured men be captured by the enemy, he single-handedly engaged and overcame an enemy superior in numbers.
In a subsequent battle on January 24, 2005, he was injured by multiple fragment wounds in the back while shielding his men from the blast of a rocket propelled grenade. Even wounded, he personally neutralised the enemy rocket and machine gun post then continued leading the patrol leading to the capture and destruction of a terrorist base.
He was awarded the Title of Hero of the Russian Federation on April 6, 2005 by Presidential Decree citing "for courage and heroism in the performance of military duties in the North Caucasus". He then held the rank of captain.
His actions during the 2008 South Ossetia war earned him the honour of becoming only the second Knight of the Order of St. George 4th class. During the October 1, 2008 award ceremony, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said of Lebed: "Among us there is a Special Forces officer, a Hero of the Russian Federation, Anatoly Vyacheslavovich Lebed. He always led from the front during combat operations, always displaying the epitome of personal courage itself".
On April 27, 2012, in Moscow, Lebed was killed in a motorcycle accident.Hero of the Russian Federation (06.04.2005)
Order of St George 4th Class (18.08.2008)
Order of Courage (3 times; 28.04.2000, 02.02.2004, 26.01.2007)
Order of the Red Star (3 times)
Order for Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces of the USSR 3rd Class
Medal for Distinguished Military Service 1st Class (MoD RF)
Medal for Distinguished Military Service 2nd Class (MoD RF)
Medal "For Impeccable Service" 3rd Class (USSR) 1991
Jubilee Medal "70 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR" 1988
Decoration "For Service in the Caucasus" Gold
Badge "Warrior-Internationalist" (USSR) 1989
Parachutist Badge (USSR and RF)
Medal "15 years since the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan" (CIS) 2004
Order of Friendship (Democratic Republic of Afghanistan)
Medal "From the Grateful Afghan People." (DRA) 1988