. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

14 Generals Targeted In Probe Of Army Graft

Several high-ranking military officers have been convicted of embezzlement charges and many more are standing trial for graft, the chief military prosecutor's office has revealed.

In all, 14 generals and more than 80 colonels face corruption and embezzlement charges, an unidentified source in the prosecutor's office told Interfax on Sunday. The source said none of the officers would be named publicly because investigations are still under way.

Among those convicted of bribery are a chief aviation engineer, a former director of the Lomonosov Air College, and a former chief of the armed forces' state technical inspectorate, as well as the man who was later named to replace him, the agency said. The report did not stipulate when the judgments were handed down.

While rumors of army graft have been widespread both during the Soviet regime and more recently under Russia's hawkish former defense minister Pavel Grachev, Russia's new defense chief has made repeated promises to sweep the army clean of corruption.

Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, an ally of Security Council Chairman Alexander Lebed, has blamed wide-spread corruption on recent cuts in military funding. He recently told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the army received less than 40 percent of the money earmarked for defense in the 1995 budget.

"The absolute majority of our soldiers are at the limit of their patience and strength," Rodionov said. "Practically all of them have not been paid for months and for a majority of them their salary, by law, can be their only source of income."

According to some estimates, Russian armed forces presently owe some $4 billion to its employees and contractors, much of it coming under the free-spending Grachev.

Grachev, given the nickname "Pasha Mercedes" for his knack for appearing in public in lavish limousines, was accused in July of allowing the theft of tens of millions of dollars and "surrounding himself with spongers and thieves" by the head of the State Duma's defense committee.

Military analysts at the Segodnya newspaper said there is some evidence that Grachev himself is one of the 14 generals under investigation, mentioned in the Interfax report.

Segodnya's national security affairs editor Pavel Felgenhauer said "there are unofficial reports Grachev was visited at his dacha and asked some questions" by prosecutor's office representatives.

But if Grachev himself is under the investigator's spotlight, a group of Defense Ministry generals who were fired in the wake of Grachev's dismissal last June to placate incoming security boss Lebed may be back in favor with Kremlin defense officials.

Interfax, citing "informed sources" in the Defense Ministry, said Monday the seven generals who were dismissed after Lebed accused them of attempting to stave off Grachev's dismissal by sabotaging the president were cleared of all charges.

"Following checks, the military prosecutor's office lifted all charges against the generals and took the decision not initiate any criminal proceedings against them," Interfax said.

The report went on to say some of the generals are likely to regain their former Defense Ministry positions, now under Rodionov, since "the posts have remained vacant since their dismissal."