Abjuring his own past pledges to keep the military out of politics, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev called March 1 for the army to back Boris Yeltsin in the upcoming presidential election. "The army should not swing from one side to the other. Today’s political course is the right one and we must support it," Grachev said while meeting with a Russian tank division in the Voronezh region. (6) The endorsement comes amid rumors that Grachev, post-Soviet Russia’s first and only defense minister, may be ousted from his post by Yeltsin. While in Yekaterinburg February 15 to announce his candidacy for president, Yeltsin publicly lampooned his defense minister for failing effectively to pursue military reform. Little more than a week later, on Russian Army Day, Yeltsin again criticized the military leadership during his State of the Nation speech. Clearly referring to Grachev, Yeltsin said that he did "not share the opinion of some top military leaders that reform is going well" or that current policies could even be called "real reform." (See Monitor, February 26)
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