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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It's Time for President to Fire Grachev

Until last Friday, the one thing that Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had going for him was his loyalty to President Boris Yeltsin. Vilified by the press for his inflammatory statements on Chechnya -- remarks which moreover appeared all too often at variance with the facts -- and scorned by fellow generals for his military incompetence, Grachev's unswerving support for his president nonetheless kept him in office.

But his revelations to the State Duma about his opposition to the Yeltsin peace plan, and in particular his announcement that he delayed the order for a cessation of military operations for five days after Yeltsin's April 1 deadline, will have changed all that.

It was bad enough having an unpopular and incompetent defense minister. To have one who is also disloyal is surely out of the question. One can only assume that the decree on Grachev's dismissal has already been drafted and will be made public as soon as a suitable replacement is found.

Presumably Grachev had his reasons for making his statements. Perhaps he was already aware that his days were numbered and so had nothing further to lose. Or maybe he felt that he wanted to distance himself from the current administration before the June elections. If that was the case, he will have been deeply disturbed by the latest polls showing a surge in support for Yeltsin, who now appears to be running neck and neck with Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Or perhaps it was just another case of ineptitude. Grachev has come up with several bewildering statements in the past ranging from his boast at the start of the conflict that he could take Grozny in a matter of hours to his assertion a year later that he had been opposed to military intervention from the outset. He is not alone in expressing doubts about the workability of the peace plan, as similar views have been expressed by presidential security adviser Yury Baturin and Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov.

Doubts are one thing, direct insubordination is quite another. And for Grachev to defy a presidential order to cease military operations must make his position untenable. For Yeltsin to keep him on now would be tantamount to an admission that he has lost control over his generals in Chechnya, that his peace plan is in tatters and that any hopes of an end to the bloody conflict are dashed.

The only course open to Yeltsin is to rid himself of Grachev, who has long been something of a loose cannon, but is now a major liability. The sooner he goes, the better it is for Yeltsin's re-election prospects, for peace in Chechnya and for the country as a whole.