Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 135

In a live radio interview on July 10, the maverick chairman of the Russian Duma’s Defense Committee, Gen. Lev Rokhlin, assured listeners that an army defense organization he is now creating will "on no account become politicized." Rokhlin most recently made headlines late last month when he issued a public appeal to Boris Yeltsin and the armed forces that blamed the disastrous state of Russia’s army on the president and that called upon military officers to organize in protest. At the time, Rokhlin also said that he intended to found a broad-ranging social organization that would be non-political and that would devote itself to protecting the interests of servicemen and workers in Russia’s defense industrial complex.

The organizing committee of that new organization met for the first time on July 9, and if its composition is any indication, Rokhlin’s pledge of non-politicization was either not meant very seriously or will be a tough one to keep. Indeed, the committee’s membership — now apparently transformed into the new organization’s board of directors — is a virtual "who’s who" of hard-liners involved in the August 1991 coup and the bloody October 1993 confrontation between the president and parliament. In addition to recently deposed Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov, it includes Gen. Valentin Varennikov, a former Soviet Ground Forces commander active in the 1991 events, and Vladimir Kryuchkov, former KGB chairman and a leader of the 1991 coup. Two of Russia’s most politically extreme ex-military men — Gen. Albert Makashov and Col. Stanislav Terekhov (head of the pro-Communist Russian Officers Union) — will contribute to the drafting of the new organization’s official program.

Former Soviet deputy defense minister Col. Gen. Vladislav Achalov, another of the hard-liners who came into prominence prior to the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, is also involved with the new organization. He was quoted on July 9 as saying that "if the president and government do not suit us, we must change the state order… We shall gain nothing if we keep requesting and proposing things… We must learn to demand."

Despite his recent actions, the pro-government "Russia is Our Home" faction announced on July 3 that it had decided against expelling Rokhlin, and yesterday Defense Council secretary Yury Baturin suggested that Rokhlin might participate in discussions currently ongoing regarding Russia’s military reform program. (Russian agencies, July 9-10) It remains to be seen whether the new organization created by Rokhlin will amount to anything. But the Duma committee chairman appears in any event to have gotten himself involved with a group of extremists whose political agenda — if not his own — will strain any efforts by the government or by the "Russia is Our Home" faction to work constructively with him.

Russian Military Personnel to Get Back Pay by September.