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Russia: Yeltsin Critic Is Neither Dismissed Nor Reprimanded

Moscow, 4 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Former general and current chairman of the State Duma's Defense Committee Lev Rokhlin will neither be dismissed from the pro-government Our Home-Russia (NDR) movement nor even reprimanded for having accused President Boris Yeltsin of trying to "destroy" the Russian armed forces.

"We will not dismiss General Rokhlin from either the movement or (its Duma) faction," said yesterday Vladimir Ryzhkov, deputy chief of NDR's executive committee, at a Moscow press conference. But he quickly added that the committee "differs with the general over his statement." Ryzhkov went on to say that NDR's leadership and Rokhlin "disagree on everything ...and we will try to convince him to take into account other opinions before making such statements."

Rokhlin was strongly criticized by the Kremlin and the Defense Ministry, but won strong support from the parliamentary opposition.

Contacted yesterday by RFE/RL several military and political analysts said that the NDR's attitude might have prompted by the group's "unwillingness to lose such a high-profile and influential figure as head of Duma's defense committee to the opposition." It has been reported that Rokhlin has already been offered to move to Duma's Communist group and to Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democrats. Rokhlin is said to have refused, for now.

Rokhlin commanded a group of Russian federal troops in Chechnya in 1995, when is was reported to have managed to score several victories. The same year he ran on a Kremlin-supported NDR's ticket in the parliamentary elections.

Last week Rokhlin issued a public statement castigating Yeltsin for alleged neglect of military needs and appealing to the military to stand up for their rights against the federal government. The statement was distributed in all military units.

There has been no discernible reaction of the military rank-and-file to this call. But Rokhlin appears determined to pursue and even announced two days ago the creation of a movement to champion the rights and needs of the Russian military. Rokhlin said that the movement is "the only way left to draw public attention" to the deteriorating conditions of the armed forces. Hundreds of thousands of officers and workers have gone for months with no pay.

Rokhlin plans to hold the first official sitting of its movement in September or early October.