The long smoldering conflict between Russia’s defense minister, Igor Rodionov, and the secretary of the country’s Defense Council, Yuri Baturin, burst back into the open yesterday as the Kremlin was compelled to order Rodionov to cease his public complaining and to get to work instead on military reform. (Reuter, Itar-Tass, February 26) That message, conveyed by Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the president’s press spokesman, came three days after an incendiary February 23 army day speech by Rodionov in which, among other things, he described circumstances in the military as catastrophic and blamed Baturin and Russia’s "democrats" for the disaster. In comments of his own two days later, Baturin rejected earlier claims by Rodionov that Russia’s strategic forces were going out of control and, in another implicit swipe at the defense minister, charged that "there is no military reform, just endless talk about it." (Itogi, as reported by the Federal News Service, February 25)
Although Yastrzhembsky denied yesterday having any knowledge of Rodionov’s imminent dismissal, these last developments have put Russia’s rumor mill in high gear. Kommersant-daily reported yesterday that a general long rumored to be in line for the defense minister post, Far Eastern Military District commander Viktor Chechevatov, has been summoned hastily to the Kremlin for a meeting today with Yeltsin, and Izvestia speculated this morning that Yeltsin intends to name him as a replacement for Rodionov. (Kommersant-daily, February 26; Itar-Tass, February 27) Whether or not such reports in any way reflect reality, there seems little doubt that Rodionov’s February 23 outburst–only the latest in a series of alarmist public remarks–was an embarrassment for Yeltsin, who had strongly backed the defense minister following a Kremlin meeting on February 17.
Yeltsin Signs 1997 Budget into Law.