Grachev to sack `disloyal' generals

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Moscow - Pavel Grachev, the Russian Defence Minister, yesterday acknowledged the depth of discontent within the armed forces over Chechnya, saying that "six or seven" generals would be dismissed for disobeying orders in the Russian assault on Groz ny, according to Interfax news agency, writes Andrew Higgins.

He named only one of them, Colonel-General Eduard Vorobyov, deputy head of Russia's ground forces, who tendered his resignation last month to avoid taking overall command of the Chechen operation. His offer to quit was rejected.

In a further sign of uncertainty over the fidelity of Russia's military, the Kremlin, according to the Izvestia newspaper yesterday, has drawn up plans to set up its own national guard for use by President Boris Yeltsin in times of crisis in the "struggle for political power". The force would be in addition to the 4,000-strong security service.

General Grachev, speaking to Russian journalists on the eve of a parliamentary session likely to be dominated by calls for his dismissal, defended his handling of the Chechen campaign. "I think the President will support me," said Mr Grachev, valued by Mr Yeltsin because of his loyalty during an armed parliamentary rebellion in October 1993.