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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Grachev Warns of 'Rumbles' if Ousted

Russia's unpopular defense minister said he is ready to resign if it would boost President Boris Yeltsin's re-election chances, but warned that the army would react badly to his ouster.

"I have often told Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin], if I must step aside in the interests of your victory, I am ready,'' Pavel Grachev told the weekly Ogonyok.

"But I think he understands well that he won't win anything by getting rid of me,'' Grachev was quoted as saying in this week's issue.

Yeltsin appears to agree. On Wednesday, after meeting with top brass and defense industry leaders, Yeltsin said he was satisfied with his defense minister.

Grachev is accused of corruption, incompetence and impeding military reform, and rumors of his ouster have circulated for years.

As the June 16 presidential election draws near, they have increased with a new intensity, especially after Grachev last month openly opposed Yeltsin's plan for bringing peace to Chechnya.

Reformist presidential candidate and leader of the Yabloko movement Grigory Yavlinsky told a press conference in the Volga River town of Samara on Thursday that he believes Yeltsin may still fire much-maligned Grachev two days before the elections as "his last campaign event," Interfax reported.

Grachev said his resignation would cause "rumbles'' in the army, because all commanding officers starting at the regiment level are "my people.''

"Those who could not work with me have all left,'' he said.

The defense minister said the attacks against him have come from "spiteful generals and officers who were dismissed for various reasons.''

Last year, Grachev ousted several top generals who criticized him for botching the campaign in Chechnya.

Grachev maintained in 1994 that one paratrooper regiment could seize Chechnya's capital in less than two hours.

He also said, again apparently contradicting his commander in chief, that reforming the Russian military is impossible because of a shortage of money. Yeltsin announced a plan earlier this month to end the deeply unpopular draft and make the army an all volunteer force by the year 2000.