Russia’s military leadership took two steps yesterday ostensibly aimed at keeping the army out of the country’s intensifying presidential election campaign. In the first, the chief of the General Staff informed commanders that campaigning on military bases is banned by law, and he ordered that visits to bases by politicians be limited. The actions were reportedly a reaction to efforts by political parties to address servicemen and to conduct polls on their political preferences. (AP, April 8) The military leadership is itself highly politicized, however, and hardly a neutral player. A number of senior commanders ran for office in the last parliamentary election.
Also yesterday, the Russian Defense Ministry Collegium, a body comprised of top military leaders, denied media allegations of dissension within their ranks and charged that such reports were aimed at "disorienting the public and the personnel of the army and navy ahead of the presidential election." The Collegium also asserted that the Defense Ministry leadership was united "on all issues of military development" and, in what seemed an endorsement of Boris Yeltsin’s candidacy, "in its full support for the policy of reform and the preservation of stability." (Itar-Tass, April 8) Russian defense minister Pavel Grachev, a long-time Yeltsin loyalist, has been at the center of many of the rumors of dissension within the military leadership, and the media has frequently speculated of late that he will be made a scapegoat for the Chechnya debacle and be dismissed.
Yeltsin Woos Elderly Voters.