Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 121

The current changes at the top of Russia’s military hierarchy must give Georgia pause. Aleksandr Lebed, just appointed by president Yeltsin to Russia’s most powerful military and security post, has proposed Col. General Igor Rodionov as his leading candidate for the post of defense minister. Rodionov was the commander of the Transcaucasus military district in 1989 when Russian soldiers using field shovels bludgeoned to death a score of women and men who were conducting a protest vigil in Tbilisi’s cathedral square. According to unverified but persistent charges ever since that event, the Russian unit was subordinated to the then-Maj. General Lebed, who was serving at that time in the Transcaucasus under Rodionov. Subsequent requests for an investigation and punishment of those culpable remained fruitless. Rodionov at least was recalled from Tbilisi after that event, but only to be appointed head of the Russian General Staff’s Academy. Shortly afterward Rodionov and Lebed joined the anti-reformist Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

Duma deputies Galina Starovoitova of Democratic Russia and Aleksey Arbatov of Yabloko yesterday described Rodionov as unfit for the defense minister’s post in view of the tragedy in which he is known to have been implicated. (Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 25)