Colonel fired for lifting lid on army corruption

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The Independent Online
A RUSSIAN colonel who edited an independent military newspaper has been dismissed from the armed forces, apparently for publishing articles which hinted at corruption and anti-democratic tendencies in the officer corps.

Alexander Zhilin, who was the editor-in-chief of the weekly Armiya Rossii, was discharged last month 'for conduct unbecoming to an officer'. But the former colonel believes that his dismissal was related to a growing crisis of lawlessness and political scheming in the armed forces.

Asked on Russian television last week why he thought the Defence Minister, Pavel Grachev, had sacked him, Mr Zhilin replied: 'I think he was alarmed by articles in our newspaper on the situation in the armed forces and the processes taking place there. Also we wrote that, in our view, through the Defence Ministry's fault, the army is now being set against the country's political authorities - something which is extremely dangerous.

'The army is on the verge of a most potent social and political explosion. We had to tell society about this and will continue to do so, especially as all this is taking place against a background of terrible corruption among generals,' Mr Zhilin said.

Armiya Rossii is an unusual publication for Russia in that it specialises in military subjects without being directly responsible to the Defence Ministry.

It employs civilian journalists as well as military personnel and has not shrunk from publishing reports that annoy the high command. One such article, on the deaths of six Russian soldiers in Armenia, contradicted a Defence Ministry statement that the men had died in crossfire. It said that in fact gunmen had executed the men in the main square of the city of Leninakan.

Writing in the weekly Moskovskie Novosti, Mr Zhilin said: 'Going out to see the troops and meeting them made it increasingly obvious to us as journalists that not everything is as fine and dandy as the top command depicts it to the President (Boris Yeltsin). At the grass roots, there is not even any question of reform. Officers, and privates even more so, are not only morally humiliated but deprived of legal rights. . .

'It is also known that informal structures are being created in the army which, given a certain turn of events, are capable of seizing command. How could someone know all this and keep silent?' Mr Zhilin said.