Duma Defense Committee chairman Gen. Lev Rokhlin has in recent days sharpened his criticism of the Yeltsin government and continued his effort to build an association of Russian military and defense industry personnel. Although he had claimed earlier that his fledgling movement is non-political, Rokhlin told reporters last week that he and his supporters would join protest actions scheduled for this fall that are aimed at ousting the Yeltsin government. Rokhlin also said that the movement’s constituent congress would be held in Moscow on September 20, and claimed that the group will have established branches in at least 70 of Russia’s regions by that time. He said that he intends to discuss possible cooperation with the leaders of the Communist, Liberal Democratic, and Yabloko factions in Russia’s Duma, as well as with the leaders of various trade unions and other political parties and movements. (Russian news agencies, August 11-12)
Rokhlin can apparently count on the support of the Communist Party. Its leader, Gennady Zyuganov, told reporters on August 15 that he backs Rokhlin’s efforts to create a nation-wide movement. He also applauded Rokhlin’s earlier call for Russian officers to unite in protest against the government’s policies — including its military reform program. Zyuganov said that the government’s military reform efforts would lead to the destruction of the country’s defense capabilities, and he called for the level of defense spending envisioned in the country’s 1998 federal budget to be raised from approximately 3 percent to 5-7 percent of the total spending. (Russian news agencies, August 15) Not surprisingly, Zyuganov’s criticism of the military reform program echoes that of Rokhlin and former defense minister Igor Rodionov, who has joined the leadership of Rokhlin’s nascent organization. (See Monitor, July 21)
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