President Boris Yeltsin yesterday relieved Gen. Viktor Prudnikov from his post as commander in chief of the Air Defense Troops and named the service’s chief of staff, Col. Gen. Viktor Sinitsin, to serve as its acting commander. Yeltsin also dismissed two deputy commanders of the Airborne Troops — Col. Gen. Aleksandr Chindarov and Lt. Gen. Viktor Sorokin.
Prudnikov’s dismissal completes the turnover this year of all the service chiefs, as well as of the defense minister and the chief of the general staff. Age was not an immediate factor in this case, as Prudnikov is only 58. In October he was named to head the CIS military cooperation staff, and he is apparently to continue in that post. He had initially been opposed to the current merger of his troops with the Air Force, and it seems that Yeltsin and his top military reformers — Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Chief of Staff Anatoly Kvashnin — wanted to name a better team player to head the new, combined Air Force. Limited cooperation in air defense has been one of the few military accomplishments of the CIS, so Prudnikov should continue to prove useful in his new position.
The dismissals of Chindarov and Sorokin have been rumored for some time and are touted as a first step toward streamlining what many see as a top-heavy command organization in the Airborne Troops. With eight deputy commanders, the paratroopers had more senior officers than some of the major services. Chindarov was the First Deputy Commander, a position the reformers plan to eliminate across the board. He had been touted as a candidate for commander of the paratroopers when Col. Gen. Yevgeny Podkolzin was fired from that post in October 1996. However, Yeltsin brought in a relative outsider to head the Airborne Troops. Both Chindarov and Sorokin are reputed to be popular with their troops and their ouster is likely to spur former paratrooper Aleksandr Lebed to renew his earlier charges that Yeltsin is settling scores with the Airborne Troops because of his dislike of Lebed.
And it seems that former defense minister Pavel Grachev has Sinitsin found a new job. He is said to have been named as an advisor to the head of Rosvooruzhenie, the state-owned arms exporting company. While the company’s official press spokesmen would not confirm the report, an anonymous source said that Grachev already has an office and an official car. (Russian media, December 17-18)
Latvia’s Defense Spending Inadequate.