President Leonid Kuchma and other Ukrainian officials yesterday threw some light on the reasons behind Valery Shmarov’s removal as defense minister. Consulting with parliamentary deputies on the formation of Pavlo Lazarenko’s government, Kuchma said that the new defense minister will be a military man, in deference to military criticism of the choice of the civilian Shmarov. Kuchma also said that a recent inspection of the situation in Ukraine’s Black Sea Fleet, which is currently being formed, revealed shortcomings attributable to Shmarov. Security Council head Volodymyr Horbulin criticized Shmarov for the slow tempo of military reform and suggested that Kiev may revert to reform plans submitted by Shmarov’s predecessor. The chairman of the parliament’s military and security commission, Volodymyr Mukhin cited complaints that Shmarov paid excessive attention to economic administration, neglecting core military issues. Kiev political observers for their part noted that Shmarov had been criticized by national-democratic parliamentary groups, some of which asked for Shmarov’s removal in exchange for supporting Lazarenko’s government. However, officials and political commentators alike noted that Shmarov had established good military relations with the US and other Western countries and predicted that any successor would continue this policy. (Interfax-Ukraine, July 9)
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