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Pavel Grachev

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Updated: 03.12.2003

General Pavel Grachev was the defence minister of Russia and commander of the army from 1992 until his ouster in July 1996. A somewhat unpopular figure, Grachev has been accused of corruption and castigated in the press for the army's disastrous war in separatist Chechnya.

Born on January 1, 1948 in the Tula region of Russia, Grachev attended military school for paratroopers, then joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and became a battalion commander in Lithuania from 1968 to 1981.

He went on to command a parachute landing regiment in Afghanistan from 1981 to 1983 and was made the head of staff of the 7th Army in Lithuania from 1983 to 1985. From 1985 to 1988, he was a division commander in Afghanistan.

During 1990-91 he was the first deputy commander and then the commander of the USSR Air Landing Forces. He was the first deputy defence minister from 1991 and was finally appointed defence minister in May 1992.

During the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Grachev opposed the use of the army to put down interethnic fighting in Lithuania and later refused to fire on protesters (led by Boris Yeltsin) at the Russian White House during the abortive Moscow coup that summer.

In gratitude, when Yeltsin rose to power he appointed the young deputy commander to the top leadership post in the army, incurring the resentment of more senior members of the General Staff.

During the armed uprising of defiant legislators at the White House in 1993 (see October 1993 Uprising), Grachev hesitated to storm the building but eventually was persuaded to do so by Yeltsin's bodyguard, General Alexander Korzhakov.

Known for his taste for Mercedes limousines, Grachev has defended army colleagues against allegations of corruption stemming from the illegal sale of army materiel during the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Germany. Grachev made rash claims that a squad of his paratroopers could squelch the independence fighters of Chechnya in days, leading to the ill-prepared and protracted army invasion of the secessionist republic of Chechnya on December 11, 1994 (see First Chechen War).

Grachev consistently underplayed the casualty figures of the war as part of a deliberate propaganda campaign and lobbied the government for more money to keep the creaking Soviet-era military running.

Grachev was sacked after the re-election of Yeltsin in July 1996, after which criminal investigations for graft against him and his allies were launched in the State Duma.

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