In what a Defense Ministry source called "a minor structural reform," President Boris Yeltsin has recently issued a decree creating a position for a first deputy who would take over from the defense minister in the latter’s absence. There is speculation that Col. Gen. Viktor Chechevatov, currently commander of the Far Eastern Military district and known to be on good terms with Yeltsin, could be named to the new post. Chechevatov had been touted to replace Defense Minister Igor Rodionov prior to the recent cabinet reshuffle. The posts for the other two first deputy defense ministers — civilian Andrei Kokoshin and General Staff chief Viktor Samsonov — have been retained.
A deputy defense minister post — that of chief military inspector of the armed forces — has been abolished; its responsibilities are to be passed to the as yet amorphous State Military Inspectorate in the president’s office. The incumbent Military Inspector, Gen. Konstantin Kobets, had hoped to be named to the presidential post. Yeltsin established the office last November but has yet to name its chief. There have been persistent rumors that the job will go to former defense minister Pavel Grachev.
In all, the defense ministry will now have a total of six deputy ministers instead of the previous five. Three of these will be first deputies against only two in the old structure. (Interfax, March 19)
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