Rosvooruzhenie, the official Russian state arms trading company, announced yesterday that former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev has been appointed the company’s chief military adviser. The appointment reportedly came on the recommendation of President Boris Yeltsin. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Rosvooruzhenie director Yevgeny Ananev said that Grachev’s long contacts with foreign military establishments and his experience in the armaments field would make the one-time defense minister a valuable member of the company’s staff. (Russian Television, Russian agencies, April 28)
Yesterday’s announcement apparently opens a new chapter in the former paratrooper commander’s checkered career. Grachev was named Russia’s first defense minister in the spring of 1992. Reported to be close to Boris Yeltsin, Grachev survived in the post for four years despite being the object of frequent criticism for alleged incompetence and–especially–corruption. The end, when it came, was swift. Yeltsin unceremoniously dumped his defense minister as a vote-getting measure during Russia’s 1996 presidential election. That announcement was accompanied by another that added to Grachev’s humiliation. Yeltsin had named Grachev’s nemesis–General Aleksandr Lebed–as secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council.
In the months that followed, Grachev’s name was mentioned as a candidate for several other posts, including that of Russia’s representative to NATO. (Officials in Brussels were said to have been less than enthusiastic.) Finally, in December of last year, a rumor surfaced that Grachev had been named as an adviser to Rosvooruzhenie, and that he had already begun work. That report was apparently exaggerated. Although Grachev may have done some consulting for the company, a Rosvooruzhenie official claimed earlier this year that Grachev was not listed among the company’s employees. (Komsomolskaya pravda, February 17)
Grachev’s apparently official appointment to Rosvooruzhenie comes at an odd moment. The company and its director, Ananev, are currently under a cloud of suspicion over alleged financial wrongdoings. Grachev’s arrival seems unlikely to improve the company’s image. Once dubbed “Pasha” Grachev for his lavish lifestyle as defense minister, the army general has more recently been questioned in connection with the 1995 murder of Dmitry Kholodov, a popular newspaper journalist. (Ekho Moskvy radio, February 11)
Kholodov was investigating military corruption at the time of his death, and at least two former paratrooper officers have been arrested in the case. Moreover, only days after Grachev was questioned in February, he was involved in an automobile accident that left a woman dead. According to one Russian daily, circumstances surrounding the accident were suspicious. The newspaper also pointed to a possible connection between Grachev–the former Airborne Forces commander–and the paratroopers arrested for Kholodov’s murder. (Komsomolskaya pravda, February 17)
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