Russian Crisis: The main players: General Grachev

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The Independent Online
UNDER the leadership of General Pavel Grachev, the wheel yesterday came full circle for the men of Omon.

In January 1991, these special forces of the Interior Ministry effectuated the bloody crackdown in the Baltic republics. General Grachev, now Russia's Defence Minister, was then commander of the Soviet Airborne Troops.

Yesterday General Grachev used 700 members of both forces to win the surrender of the White House. Both Omon and the airborne forces are trained in assaults of this kind. General Grachev is believed to have spent the past two weeks co-ordinating the operation.

It was by refusing to support the coup leaders in 1991 that General Grachev secured a future as Russia's defence minister. In the current conflict, he initially sought to remain neutral. In March, he said the army would act as a 'guarantor of stability' by staying out of the power struggle. The following month parliament accused him of abusing his position in 'illegal deals' during the pull-out of Russian troops from former East Germany.

Although linked by fate to Mr Yeltsin's reforms, General Grachev appears to share some of the objectives of the people he crushed yesterday. He said last year: '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 has since announced a slowdown in the recall of Russian soldiers from the Baltics.

Born in 1948 in Tula, central Russia, General Grachev graduated from the Higher Airborne School in 1969 and joined the Communist Party in 1972. He commanded the 108th Airborne Division in Afghanistan and was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union in 1988. Low army morale has since eroded support among his Afgantsi veterans.

(Photograph omitted)