Moscow, 4 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russia's Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor Eduard Gaveto says that his office has begun an offensive against crimes by high-ranking military officers.
Gaveto told our correspondent in Moscow recently that the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office (GVP) is pursuing investigations of a series of cases involving senior commanders. Many of these cases, such as one involving Admiral Igor Khmelnov, the number two man in the Navy, reportedly are close to completion.
Khmelnov is Navy Chief-of-Staff and former commander of the Pacific Fleet. He stands accused of embezzling cash from military coffers. Military prosecutors charge that Khmelnov received the equivalent of millions of dollars in proceeds from selling two aircraft carriers and 62 aged warships to South Korean and Indian scrappers. The proceeds were to have been used to build free apartments for the neediest of local naval servicemen. Apartments were constructed, but -- according to the charges -- a substantial number of them were distributed among Khmelnov's friends and relatives, and not to needy servicemen.
The GVP charges say that before taking office as chief of naval staff in Moscow late last year, Khmelnov illegally privatized and sold his own assigned five-room apartment in the Far East port of Vladivostok.
The charges against Khmelnov have become public knowledge even though they are not yet before a court. Other officers known to be under investigation, such as the commander of the Privolzhsky Military District, Anatoly Sergeyev, have yet to learn what GVP investigators have turned up against them.
GVP spokesman Sergei Ushakov told our correspondent that an investigating team jointly drawn from the State Duma's Accounting Chamber, the Defense Ministry and the GVP has been operating for three weeks in the city of Saratov, where the Privolzhsky Military District is headquartered.
Admiral Khmelnov and General Sergeyev have company on the list of those commanders under investigation by GVP. It opened more than 100 criminal cases against colonels and officers of higher rank last year alone.