General says 'great Russia' will return

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GENERAL Pavel Grachev, the Russian Defence Minister, said yesterday that the world 'will witness the revival of a great Russia', and the 120,000 Russian troops in the Baltic states would remain there until defence structures in Russia had been reorganised.

Gen Grachev also said the Russian 14th Army would remain in Moldova as a 'peace-keeping force', denying that the unit was involved in the conflict on the side of the Russian minority. In a further assertion of Russia's interests, he said the naval base of Kaliningrad 'is and will remain Russian' and revealed that Russia would deploy 'independent army corps able to repel attacks' there.

In a speech, 'Russia's defence policy', at the Royal United Services Institute in London, Gen Grachev said: 'We are deeply convinced that we will witness a revival of a great Russia which will take its place in the list of great nations.' He said the leaders of the Baltic region 'see the presence of our troops as the presence of occupying forces, with which we disagree'. But there would be no withdrawal so long as the troops had nowhere else to go.

'We have no intention of withdrawing our troops and leaving them in an open field.' Moreover, 'Russia has some strategic interests in the Baltic region' and before a withdrawal there must be a reorganisation of air defence in what he twice referred to as the 'Pskov and Leningrad area' - ignoring the post-Communist change of name to St Petersburg. When President Yeltsin said two weeks ago that Russian troops would withdraw by August 1993, he made no such pre-conditions.

Asked if there would not be a problem in having the 14th Army act as 'peace-keepers' in Moldova since they are widely held to be involved in the conflict on the side of the Dnestr secessionists - a quarter of the secessionists are Russians - the general said: 'I keep asking our own press, 'show me the commander who is issuing these orders'.' He said 40 per cent of the 14th Army originated from the Dnestr area, and 'as a result some servicemen have deserted and joined the Transdniestrians, and had arms and equipment with them'. These arms were impossible to retrieve, he said, 'because women and children lie down in front of the army's tanks disabling the recapturing of weapons. They would have to fire at those women and children and no commander, including me, could issue such an order.' Gen Grachev said Russian troops would also remain as 'peace-keepers' in Nagorny Karabakh and in the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict.

MOSCOW - Alexander Rutskoi, the Russian Vice-President, yesterday condemned the mutiny of a Black Sea fleet ship, accusing Ukraine of treating the issue like a child's game, Reuter reports. He suggested Ukraine had acted irresponsibly at a time when the two countries were engaged in delicate talks over a share-out of the fleet. 'This is military equipment. This is not a toy,' he added.