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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cuts, Blows to Morale Pile on Grachev's Head

The Russian Army has entered a difficult period and the next year will be crucial. The government has already announced its priorities for the coming year: the battles against inflation and crime. Clearly, the army is not at the top of the agenda.

On Monday, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced that the 1995 defense budget will be even less than the 1994 budget. That makes four straight years of reductions in military spending.

Today only 351,851 troops remain in Russia's ground forces, comparable with nations such as Turkey and Iran.

The Russian Army is also in debt, and its housing construction program has virtually come to a standstill.

Although it is possible these problems are complicated by widescale high-level corruption in the Defense Ministry, officers are more concerned about the results of the crisis than its causes.

Defense Minister Pavel Grachev has been under constant attack in the press and has been desperately fighting for his job. Although many generals and other officers sympathize, they see his authority is wavering.

In short, the situation in the army is beginning to get out of control. Many military figures have decided that it is no longer necessary to pay homage to civilian authorities.

Last week, the commander in chief of Russia's ground forces, General Vladimir Semyonov, called into question the recent agreement by President Boris Yeltsin and Moldovan President Mircha Snegur to completely withdraw, in three years, Russia's 14th Army from the Transdnestr region. Semyonov said that "withdrawing the army completely is impossible," and added: "In addition, one must admit that Transdnestr is truly Russian territory." He thinks the 14th Army must be replaced by a Russian military base to protect the local population and Russia's interests. As for the withdrawal agreement, as military people have said openly, it was only needed to formally legalize the 14th Army's status. Semyonov has direct command of the 14th Army, and he will determine the pace of its withdrawal.

Clearly, for many highly placed military figures the example of the 14th Army's commander, General Alexander Lebed, is becoming increasingly attractive. He has made himself popular by insulting the president, the government and politicians in general -- as well as his own boss, Grachev.

Pavel Felgenhauer is defense and national security editor for Segodnya.