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Russia: Kremlin Says General Semyonov Suspended, Not Sacked

Moscow, 3 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Confusion over the removal of one of Russia's most senior generals continued today with the Kremlin blaming the Defense Ministry of anticipating events.

General Vladimir Semyonov, commander of Russia's land forces, was relieved of his duties yesterday, with the Defense ministry accusing him of "actions which discredit the honor and the dignity of a serviceman and are incompatible with his post."

Today, however, a presidential spokesman denied President Boris Yeltsin already had signed a decree dismissing the general.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky told a Kremlin briefing Yeltsin "agreed in principle" to Semyonov's removal but would not sign a decree to that effect until a presidential commission, examining the case, had finished its work. Yastrzhembsky also avoided repeating the allegations against Semyonov and said all questions about them should be addressed to the Defense Ministry.

Contacted by Itar-tass, Semyonov refused to discuss his dismissal, but Interfax quotes him as saying he had still not been presented with any concrete allegations and disagreed strongly with the grounds given for his removal.

Semyonov, who has been army commander since 1991, was appointed chief of the Russian land forces the year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov postponed a visit to the United States this week. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman verified an Interfax report attributed to unnamed senior Russian defense officials. The spokesman gave no reason for the postponement.

However, Rodionov's decision followed a day of conflicting reports from the Kremlin and the defense ministry over the sacking of General Vladimir Semyonov.

Rodionov was due to begin his four-day trip to Washington tomorrow in return for a vist to Moscow by U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry in October.