Yeltsin appoints new defence minister

President Boris Yeltsin yesterday confirmed General Igor Sergeyev, 59, as Russia's new Defence Minister, charged with reducing Russia's vast and ramshackle armed forces to a more streamlined and efficient body. But some Western analysts now doubt whether the senior Russian military has any intention of pushing ahead with those plans, or whether it can afford to implement them.

Mr Yeltsin sacked the former defence minister Igor Rodionov on Thursday in a staged dressing down, shown on television, in which he said he was fed up with the lack of progress on military reform.

General Sergeyev was the commander of the Strategic Nuclear Forces - 150,000 strong, including land-based missiles and navy and air force units - and is therefore a logical choice to replace him. As Russia's conventional forces have crumbled away, the Strategic Nuclear Forces, the most efficient, have remained as the backbone of Russia's defence. But it is uncertain whether General Sergeyev will be able to do any better.

Mr Yeltsin also sacked Mr Rodionov's number two, the Chief of the General Staff, General Viktor Samsonov, and replaced him with General Anatoly Kvashnin.

In spite of its appalling economic ills, the Russian Defence Ministry still has armed forces of 1.7 million, and, with armed soldiers belonging to 27 other ministries, including the Interior Ministry, and the Security Ministry, a total of 3.2 million men under arms. Western experts calculate that Russia can afford half a million men under arms in total - just twice the size of the British Armed forces. The strategic nuclear forces, which have been relatively free of corruption and disintegration, are seen as a model and starting point for the rebirth of Russia's armed forces.

"Yeltsin was using Rodionov as a scapegoat", argues Professor Sasha Kennaway of London University and the Conflict Studies Centre at Sandhurst. "My personal view is that the senior military have no intention of downsizing the armed forces. They have been using Nato enlargement as a bogeyman."

It is also understood that the Russians have just closed the research institute which was investigating how to restructure military industry on commercial lines.

General Rodionov recently admitted that Russia still had 1.7 million in the armed forces. Previously, the Russian defence ministry had said it would reduce personnel to 1.25 million. One third of those are officers - twice as many officers to men as in the British forces. But in some units, the balance is more like one-to-one.

When the President fired Mr Rodionov, he declared: "The soldier is losing weight while the general is getting fatter". Military prosecutors say about 20 generals and 100 colonels are being investigated for corruption. During Mr Rodionov's term as defence minister, the situation appears to have got worse, with junior officers driving taxis and young conscripts begging on the Moscow streets. The problem is that paying men off and attracting well-motivated professional soldiers and officers costs money, and there is none.

Like many Russian generals, General Sergeyev has taken an academic approach to his profession, and is regarded as an intellectual. Married with one son, he lists sport and classical literature as recreations. His career started in the navy, but in 1961 he joined the newly formed strategic missile forces, which Nikita Khrushchev had made into a separate service.


David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary History Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Secondary Geography Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments