Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 206

Amid reports of mounting tensions within the armed forced, Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin traveled to the city of Ryazan on November 1, where he met with disgruntled troops and cadets from a local airborne forces garrison, as well as with strategic bomber pilots and workers from a nearby defense plant. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, who accompanied Chernomyrdin, told reporters prior to their arrival that the Prime Minister had decided to make the trip because of his "deep concern over the state of affairs in the army." Special emphasis, Rodionov added, would be placed on "the troubled situation surrounding the Airborne Forces."

In his remarks to the troops, Chernomyrdin called the government’s wage and payment arrears to the army "inadmissible," and pledged that in October, November, and December servicemen would receive both the regular wages due them and unpaid wages for the previous two months. Chernomyrdin, who also used the meeting to speak out against NATO enlargement, assured the troops, moreover, that the future of the Airborne Forces is in no doubt. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, Reuter, November 1) Some soldiers reportedly asked of Chernomyrdin that a fellow paratrooper be appointed to head the Airborne Forces — rather than a Ground Forces officer as has been rumored. That request caused Rodionov to snap back that they would take orders from whomever is named to the post. "This is not a collective farm, but an army," Rodionov was quoted as saying. (Kommersant-daily, November 2) Rodionov has backed a military reform plan that includes reductions in the number — and a diminishment in the role — of the elite Airborne Forces.

Chernomyrdin’s trip appeared to reflect not only real concern in the Kremlin over growing unrest in the army, but also the prime minister’s continuing efforts to stand in for the ailing Boris Yeltsin. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union the Russian president has carefully cultivated key segments of the uniformed military, and Chernomyrdin, with one eye on the presidency himself, has undoubtedly recognized the value of that policy.

Rybkin Reviews Security Council Appointments.