Much as he did February 15 in Yekaterinburg, Yeltsin again slammed Defense Minister Pavel Grachev during his state of the nation speech. "The unsystematic way that military reform has been handled so far cannot be called real reform," Yeltsin said. Not coincidentally, Yeltsin’s speech coincided with Russia’s Defender of the Fatherland Day, formerly called Army Day, and echoed remarks that he had made a year earlier about the urgent need to accelerate military reform. The notable lack of success achieved in the intervening twelve months was reflected in a glum commentary by the Russian newspaper Segodnya February 23, which charged that "Relations between the professional military and society and the attitude of officers toward the government and politicians are now nearly as bad as in 1917." (2)
As in past years, Russian nationalists and Communists used the Army Day holiday to protest against the government. Some 10,000 uniformed veterans, carrying red flags, marched toward Red Square and then held an anti-government rally en route near the statue of Karl Marx. Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov, among the speakers addressing the crowd, called for a "government of popular trust" that would include "our best, most talented, and honest people." (3)
Yeltsin Speech Gets Mixed Reviews.