Yeltsin Ditches Defense Minister

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MOSCOW: Railing at rampant military corruption, Boris Yeltsin primed himself for a political comeback, firing Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and the country's top military commander for failing to cut costs and slash Russia's overmanned armed forces. "I am not just unsatisfied. I am outraged," Yeltsin lectured the Defense Council in a nationally televised dressing down. Acknowledging that he has been somewhat "removed" from running the country recently (a state of affairs popularly linked to everything from alcoholism to senility), Yeltsin told the defense chiefs that he is now back in charge, a thinly veiled threat in a country where one word from the Kremlin can make or break lives. Health questions aside, Yeltsin may find words easier than deeds, reports TIME's Moscow bureau chief Paul Quinn-Judge: "It's questionable how much he can look like a reformer sweeping the place clean when he's the one who presided over the mess in the first place." If Yeltsin were to carry out his heavily publicized anti-corruption campaign at full tilt, he would risk sending most of his presidential team to the pokey, notes Quinn-Judge. But some heads will roll. Deputy Defense Minister Gen. Konstantin Kobets, recently arrested on corruption charges, was succinct: "They'll try to get rid of me -- a knife in the back and that's it."