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Grachev Supports Yeltsin's Re-Election Bid

Moscow, May 23 (RFE/RL) - Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev has called for the re-election of President Boris Yeltsin.

Grachev made the comment yesterday in Yekaterinburg at a meeting of officers from the Urals military district. He said that "only Yeltsin is able to ensure that the started reforms are continued." Grachev also said the majority of Russian officers associate stability with Yeltsin's leadership.

Grachev's comments raise the question of the role the Russian military vote will play in next month's presidential election.

Russia's laws prohibit any political propaganda within military units. It also bars commanders from urging their subordinates to vote for a particular party or a candidate.

But military analysts (anonymous) have told RFE/RL in Moscow that they were not surprised by Grachev's comment. They said that Grachev had also urged the Russian military to vote for the pro-governmental bloc of Our Home - Russia at the parliamentary elections last December.

The analysts also said Grachev's yesterday comments might have been self-serving, marking his attempt to ingratiate himself with Yeltsin to avert possible dismissal in case the president is re-elected. Grachev dismissal has been widely predicted in the Russian press.

The Russian military cast their ballots at the same polling stations as civilians, except for a few bases and units based outside Russia. It is still difficult to predict which candidate will gain their support.