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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reform to Continue in Baturin's Absence

President Boris Yeltsin's abrupt dismissal of his man on military reform caught almost everyone off guard -- including the man he named to take over -- but Kremlin watchers said Monday it does not signal a reversal in plans to overhaul the armed forces. Instead, they say, the Kremlin will follow through with reforms drafted last spring by Yury Baturin, who was fired last week as head of the influential Defense Council. He is expected to remain a player behind the scenes, while more army-friendly Andrei Kokoshin, a former deputy defense minister, will serve as the lightning rod for criticism pouring down on the plan from powerful generals who stand to lose their jobs or influence. "People like to imagine that Russian politics are full of intrigue, when really most things have simple explanations," said Sergei Oznobishev, director of Moscow's Institute for Strategic Assessments. "Yeltsin moved Baturin to a different post because he was getting too unpopular with the military. Yeltsin often reshuffles his deck like this." Baturin, 48, will keep his Kremlin credentials as the president's defense adviser. "The military refused to cooperate with Baturin, so in effect Yeltsin had no choice," said Viktor Kremenyuk of the USA/Canada Institute. "Baturin's personality was standing in the way of his job. I think firing Baturin will actually accelerate the reform process." Yeltsin has used similar tactics in the past, most notably with current First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais. After the government movement's disastrous performance in the December 1995 parliamentary elections, Yeltsin publicly blamed Chubais for his role as privatization chief and booted him from the Kremlin. Chubais quickly returned to organize Yeltsin's election campaign, and was back in the Kremlin shortly after the final results were in. Baturin's dismissal created a mild sensation because the 48-year-old's star was believed to have been rising rapidly in the Kremlin. Yeltsin's decision even surprised Kokoshin, who later said he learned of his new appointment through television reports. A lawyer by trade, Baturin developed a good working relationship with the president, who has recently applauded his work. But Baturin became an enemy of military generals, some 900 of whose positions will be eliminated by 1999 as part of reductions Yeltsin signed into law in July. Earlier this year Baturin won a brutal tug-of-war with then-defense minister Igor Rodionov, who said reforms in the military were impossible without more money. Created especially for Baturin last summer as a counterweight to the Security Council, the Defense Council won even broader powers this summer when Yeltsin made the Defense Ministry subordinate to the council on military reform issues. Several Defense Ministry officials have been quoted in the Russian press as saying the Defense Council may soon be reorganized and merged with the Security Council. After spending five years in the Defense Ministry, Kokoshin is said to have developed a good rapport with generals and key figures in the defense industry.