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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Generals Lash Out at Yeltsin's Military Decrees

President Boris Yeltsin faced a volley of criticism Friday over military reform, just two days after he signed decrees launching sweeping changes in the armed forces.


Yeltsin ordered the Defense Ministry to cut troop numbers by 500,000 to 1.2 million by the end of next year in a series of measures intended to turn the demoralized military into a leaner and more effective fighting force.


Ousted security aide Alexander Lebed said he was not optimistic about the new reforms. Former defense minister Igor Rodionov and Lev Rokhlin, head of the Duma's defense committee, opened fire on policy in general.


"The president and prime minister's political approach to the problem [of military reform] destabilizes the situation," Rodionov, fired by Yeltsin in May for failing to carry out reforms, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta in an interview.


"I cannot understand why our leadership is so irresponsible about military reforms. We still have no doctrine, no concept, no program and, that means, no everyday plans."


Rodionov said a "fifth column" could be trying to denigrate the armed forces. He did not say who he meant by this but said such saboteurs did not include military personnel and urged servicemen to be patient.


The armed forces, heavily funded in Soviet times, are now demoralized and in disarray. They were defeated by separatist rebels in Chechnya, many soldiers have not been paid for months, corruption is rife and living conditions are getting worse.


Defense spending for 1997 was set at 88.3 trillion rubles ($15.3 billion) but later reduced under budget cuts. Officials say the military have so far received only 22 trillion rubles.


A mutiny is widely ruled out, although Rodionov said 95,000 officers had no homes and lived in railway carriages, garages, tents or their workplaces.


Yeltsin's decrees, issued on Wednesday, have not been published in full but the Kremlin gave some details on Friday.


Strategic missile troops, military space forces and military space air defense troops are to be regrouped into one separate force called the strategic missile troops. Air defense troops will be merged with the air force.


Funds raised from privatizing some military organizations, and the sale of property and equipment to be taken out of service, are to be set aside to help the discharged servicemen.


A Kremlin statement said the moves were in line with Russia's security, defense and economic needs.


Kremlin defense aide Yury Baturin said the first 200,000 personnel would be discharged by the end of this year. This would include 50,000 officers and cuts in personnel in military road construction groups and other building groups. The Defense Ministry's central administration will be limited to 12,000 -- 1 percent of the armed forces.


Lebed also wants reforms but did not approve the new moves. "The failure to answer several questions prevents me from feeling optimistic about the president's latest decree," Lebed said in a written statement casting doubts on funding and the mechanisms for implementing and checking the reforms.


Rokhlin, who has set up a non-military organization to defend the armed forces' interests, also remained unhappy.


"The army is being destroyed catastrophically quickly," Rokhlin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Air force pilots don't fly, tank drivers don't drive military vehicles and the infantry don't have shooting practice."