Since Grachev’s ouster and his temporary replacement by former general staff chief Mikhail Kolesnikov, speculation as to likely candidates for the defense minister post have focused on two former deputy defense ministers — Boris Gromov and Valery Mironov. Like Lebed himself, both Gromov and Mironov are Afghan war veterans who ultimately broke with Grachev and were driven from the defense ministry. Mironov has since played a low-key role as the main military expert for the Russian government, while the more charismatic Gromov — thought by many the most likely choice — is a Duma deputy and campaign advisor to Boris Yeltsin
Another contender, first deputy defense minister Andrei Kokoshin, was considered to have little chance of succeeding Grachev. But an informed source in the general staff yesterday suggested that the defense ministry’s lone civilian leader is emerging as a possible compromise candidate. Kolesnikov himself, finally, is said to be under consideration, although many believe he would prefer to return to the general staff. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, June 18-19)
But a commentary in a Russian daily yesterday observed that it might be worth examining Lebed’s own preferences. The piece suggested that the Security Council secretary’s feelings toward Gromov are ambivalent, and singled out hard-line General Staff Academy chief Igor Rodionov and the current commander of Russian forces in Chechnya, Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, as military leaders who are close to Lebed. (Kommersant-daily, June 19)
Lebed Conspiracy Charge Stays in the News.