Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russian Military Gets Tough New Leader Yeltsin's Security Chief Gains Ally, Influence

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russian Military Gets Tough New Leader Yeltsin's Security Chief Gains Ally, Influence

Article excerpt

In a move underscoring Alexander Lebed's new Kremlin clout, President Boris Yeltsin named as defense minister a Lebed ally best known for ordering a bloody crackdown on a peaceful 1989 protest rally.

The appointment of Col. Gen. Igor Rodionov as defense minister ended a month of intense lobbying for the important job since Yeltsin fired Pavel Grachev in a shake-up related to Yeltsin's re-election campaign.

The appointment also strengthens the influence of Lebed, Yeltsin's new security chief, and disproves predictions that the retired general would be shunted aside after helping Yeltsin win re-election.

While Lebed did not get the broad powers in economic and social issues he was seeking after his own ascension to power last month, he clearly has Yeltsin's ear. "Alexander Lebed has again emerged as the winner," the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

Lebed had repeatedly endorsed Rodionov, 59, a fellow veteran of the Afghan war. In praising Yeltsin Wednesday for acting "wisely," Lebed described Rodionov as a "top professional, an elite general who combines practical and theoretical knowledge."

Many observers suspect that Rodionov, known as a tough, no-nonsense commander, will pursue a military victory in Chechnya rather than a negotiated settlement.

He pledged on Wednesday to try to resolve the conflict in Chechnya. "We must sort out the situation in Chechnya, Tajikistan and Bosnia in order to take the necessary decisions there," he said.

In Chechnya, more than 30,000 people have been killed in 19 months of fighting. In the former Soviet republic and now nation of Tajikistan, he faces a conflict in which Russia leads peacekeeping forces.

Rodionov was born Dec. 1, 1936, graduated from the armored corps and general staff academies, and steadily rose through the military ranks. He was put in charge of the 40th army in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s and later was named commander of the Trans-Caucasian military district.

`Butcher Of Tbilisi'

His methods were called into question in the bloody suppression of a pro-independence rally in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on April 9, 1989, when Soviet soldiers using shovels, clubs and poisonous chemicals killed 19 protesters. …

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