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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Interior Ministry Fires Chief Of Key Elite Police Division

The Interior Ministry troops confirmed Thursday that Colonel Vladimir Manyuta, who won a reputation as a courageous combat officer during the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, is to be removed from the politically sensitive position of commander of the elite Dzerzhinsky Division.

The division, deployed just east of Moscow in Balashikha, is one of two full-staff military formations in the capital and is intended to be the Kremlin's last resort in emergencies such as mass riots or a coup attempt. Althoughformally renamed the Special Tasks Division, it is still called the Dzerzhinsky Division after the KGB founder.

Russian media reported that Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin had started a campaign to purge his ministry's personnel and had removed Manyuta for failure to establish order in the unit, which has a record of brutal hazing.

Under Manyuta, "the formation has been degraded to the position of a rear one," Stepashin was quoted by Kom-mersant as saying. "Shameful!"

Stepashin said he had decided to remove Manyuta and order an inspection of the division. "In the new year this division has to become an elite one again."

A military expert with the Carnegie Moscow Center, Alexander Pikayev, called Manyuta's removal a "PR operation" on the part of Stepashin after President Boris Yeltsin spoke in strong terms about the need to improve discipline and combat readiness in the troops.

Colonel Vasily Panchenkov, Interior troops spokesman, said Manyuta is to be transferred to an equal position where his "combat experience" will be of better use. He denied that hazing was the main reason for Manyuta's transfer.

"Hazing exists in any military unit," Panchenkov said.

Manyuta's replacement, a general whose name has not been released, has been nominated by Stepashin but must be approved by Yeltsin due to the division's special status, the spokesman said.