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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Chechnya, Mood Mixed on Reshuffle

GROZNY, Chechnya -- Chechens greeted the sacking of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev with grim approval Tuesday, blaming him for the mindless destruction of the war, but Russian soldiers reacted with weariness, not knowing whether it was good for them or not.


"I am full of joy," said Ruslan, a Chechen policemen in a smart uniform outside the government building, armed with an automatic rifle and a pistol, a dagger and truncheon at his belt.


"We hope it will be for the better," said Ruslan Martagov, chief spokesman for the leader of the pro-Moscow Chechen government, Doku Zavgayev. "For me, personally speaking, as Ruslan Martgavov, it is very pleasant news."


"Of course, we are pleased," said Ibragim Arsanov, a Chechen student back from university in Paris for the summer holidays.


"First of all, he is not a competent person. Secondly, morally, he does not fit with the status of a defense minister. He is a criminal," he said. "Instead of destroying Dudayev and his group, they have waged war against the people and turned them against Russia."


But a group of Russian paratroopers, from whose ranks Grachev rose to defense minister, sitting on their tank dug in beside the government house, were far from enthusiastic.


"It is bad news, he was an all right guy," said one.


"He raised the prestige of the army," said another.


"It will be bad for morale, he understood the situation," said Andrei Bergman. "Here you cannot decide it by peaceful means. That he showed by his actions. How many units have been wiped out since the beginning of the year? How many villages have we freed?" he said.


But Mamant, a young conscript from the far northern island of Yamal, voiced a different opinion. "He came to his senses too late," he said of Yeltsin.


The toughest criticism of Grachev came not from his own troops but from Interior Ministry officers at a checkpoint at a bridge in central Grozny.


"Grachev should have been hung a long time ago on Red Square. Think how many solders have died here. If they are dying of hunger in the army, what good has he done?" said one.


"They were not prepared when they stormed Grozny," said an officer named Alexei. "We saw soldiers here in January in 1995. All they were given was a can of meat and a bottle of vodka for a whole 24 hours. ... They were selling their rifles for a good pair of boots," he said.


Opinions were mixed on the appointment of Alexander Lebed to the post of secretary of the Security Council with special responsibility for army reform.


Many thought little would change as Lebed would not be able to influence the Kremlin. But Mamant was optimistic: "Where Lebed is, there is order."








he said.





"With Lebed we will be out of here and into winter quarters on time."








, who said he had read an interview with Grachev while in Chechnya that showed he knew how things stood


They were so thin. They had no gear.


"He stuck a roast chicken up his backside," he said, explaining that Yeltsin's actions, so late, would only hurt himself.


Geese saved Rome, the swan will save Russia," he said, laughing at his pun on Lebed's name, which means wwan in Russian.


Imagine winter in the Caucasus, cold at night and hot in the day.


, rocking on his chair and playing with the safety catch of his gun beside the tank


"Our system is very heavy, our politics can barely change," said one Interior Ministry officer.


, standing beside a red communist flag flying above the entrance to their post