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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin, Military Split Over Sacking

Russia's military high command was split and the Kremlin in disarray Monday, as the Defense Ministry tried to win presidential approval for the sacking on corruption charges of one of Russia's top generals.


After a day of contradictory signals, the presidential press service said Monday night that President Boris Yeltsin had approved in principle but still not officially decreed the dismissal of General Vladimir Semyonov, head of Russia's ground forces.


According to the Itar-Tass version of the event, Defense Minister Igor Rodionov had approached Yeltsin on the weekend asking him to sack Semyonov, Russia's third highest ranking general.


Yeltsin had agreed in principle but deferred the matter to a special committee on senior military appointments.


Interfax had earlier in the day quoted a statement from the defense ministry which said that Semyonov had been dismissed on Saturday by Yeltsin "for actions which discredit the honor and dignity of a serviceman and are incompatible with his duty."


But Yury Baturin, secretary of the advisory Defense Council and chairman of the commission on high military ranks and posts, told Interfax late Monday that there was no presidential decree dismissing Semyonov, and that he had not received any documents for the preparation of such a decree.


A spokesman for Defense Minister Igor Rodionov then told Interfax that Semyonov had indeed been dismissed, and his duties taken over by Colonel-General Anatoly Golovnyov, his first deputy.


Late Monday, the presidential The press service said that Rodionov had asked for the dismissal, and that the issue would be discussed at a session of the commission on high military ranks and posts.


Izvestia, in its Tuesday edition, quotes Semyonov as saying he met Friday with Rodionov, who referred to "serious complaints" connected to "commercial activities" of Semyonov's wife.


According to the newspaper, Mrs. Semyonov works in the Moscow office of a Rostov factory which makes transport helicopters. Izvestia adds, however, that ground forces have purchased few of these aircraft.


A factory representative told the newspaper he was unaware that Mrs. Semyonov, who worked in their Moscow office, was the general's wife.


Semyonov told Izvestia he had made an appointment to meet with Presidential Chief of Staff Anatoly Chubais to find out what he was accused of doing.


"I have not received any clear or convincing reasons for my dismissal from the defense minister," Interfax quoted him as saying Monday.


He told Izvestia that once he received a full explanation for his removal, he would contest it in court.


Izvestia quotes unidentified Defense Ministry officials describing Semyonov as "one of the most knowledgeable commanders" of ground forces in years.


A spokesman for ground forces headquarters called him "an honest general."


"He has never built any dachas or been involved in any corruption," spokesman Alexander Stepanov told The Associated Press. "He has never said anything against the president or the defense minister."


Semyonov, 56, was made head of Soviet ground forces following the failed hard-line putsch in August 1991. The following year, he was named head of Russia's ground forces.


While he was viewed as a prot?g? of Pavel Grachev, Semyonov reportedly became a strong opponent of the then-defense minister. According to Izvestia, Semyonov opposed the December 1994 decision to send troops into Chechnya.


He was promoted to the rank of general last June, the same month that Grachev was ousted as defense minister.


Analysts were mystified Monday over the reasons for Semyonov's removal, and why it was done in such a high-profile fashion.


"No one with whom I've talked has any idea of what, concretely, he could be accused of," said Alexander Golz, a military observer for the magazine Itogi.


"The question is why General Semyonov was chosen for this public execution," said Andrei Piontkowsky of the Moscow based Center for Strategic Studies. "I think there is a political reason behind this."


Izvestia quotes sources in the Defense Ministry leadership as saying Rodionov is facing a "wave of dissatisfaction" within the armed forces, and thus has decided to bring in his own allies.


In October, Yeltsin fired seven generals, including Mikhail Kolesnikov, chief of the armed forces' general staff. Some analysts saw the move as a concession to Rodionov.


The defense minister, meanwhile, will make a four-day official visit to the United States on Dec. 4, Interfax quoted Defense Ministry sources as saying.


Rodionov will meet with Defense Secretary William Perry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and National Security adviser Anthony Lake, as well as senior State Department officials and congressmen.