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New Russian Defence Minister says he will Tackle 'Hot Spots'

Moscow, July 17 (RFE/RL) - General Igor Rodionov was appointed Russia's New Defense Minister today and said his priority will be to tackle hotspots where, as he put it, Russians are dying.

Itar-Tass quotes Rodionov, appointed by presidential decree, as saying "we have to get to grips with the situation in Chechnya, Tajikistan and Bosnia in order to take the necessary steps."

Rodionov also said military reforms were high on his agenda. Rodionov replaces Pavel grachev, whom President Boris Yeltsin dismissed one month ago at the time he appointed Alexander Lebed to be his new national security chief.

The Itar-Tass news agency quotes Lebed as saying Yeltsin made a wise decision that will benefit all of Russia in appointing Rodionov. Lebed had recommended Rodionov for the post, terming him an outstanding, elite general.

Rodionov commanded the 40th Soviet army in Afghanistan in the mid-1980's then became commander of the Caucasus military region, where he served with Lebed. In 1989, Rodionov ordered Soviet troops to suppress a Georgian independence rally in Tbilisi. About 20 people were killed in the incident mainly by shovels wielded by Soviet soldiers. Rodionov subsequently headed the Academy of the General Staff in Moscow.