Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 125

The Russian armed forces look set to be engulfed in yet another political scandal following the issuance of an incendiary message from the chairman of the Duma’s Defense Committee, General Lev Rokhlin. In an open letter addressed to Boris Yeltsin and to Russian servicemen, Rokhlin demands that the Russian president "take urgent measures to improve the situation in the armed forces." More to the point, Rokhlin urges officers in Russian military units to hold meetings in order to draft legal demands that should be sent to the president, the government, the parliament, and the federal courts. The appeal accuses these institutions of having violated Russia’s laws and the constitution, and strongly intimates that the government is implicated in the destruction of Russia’s "army, military science, and defense industry." According to one report, Rokhlin’s appeal also warns that the military reform program currently under consideration in the Kremlin and Defense Ministry will further erode the army’s combat readiness. (NTV, June 23; Radio Russia, June 25)

According to Sergei Yushenko, another member of the Defense Committee, Rokhlin’s appeal violates Russia’s law "On Defense" both insofar as it urges servicemen to disobey Russia’s supreme commander-in-chief (Yeltsin) and because it reflects an effort by Rokhlin to use his official post for political purposes. Yushenko said, moreover, that the appeal had not been approved by the Defense Committee as a whole. Rokhlin’s actions have also caused consternation within the pro-government "Russia is Our Home" faction, and one top-ranking official has proposed that the general’s expulsion be considered at a June 30 meeting of the "Russia Is Our Home" movement’s political council. (Radio Russia, Russian TV, June 25)