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Moscow Air Defense Leadership Purged

June 18, 1987|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — A high-level purge of Moscow's air defense forces was disclosed Wednesday, less than three weeks after a young West German pilot landed a single-engine plane in Red Square near the gates of the Kremlin.

The Soviet military newspaper Red Star said in its Wednesday issue that Marshal Anatoly U. Konstantinov, the chief of Moscow's air defenses, has been dismissed on grounds that he behaved in a dictatorial manner and put himself above the Communist Party.

Earlier, just two days after the young West German's flight, Defense Minister Sergei L. Sokolov and the chief of Soviet air defenses, Alexander I. Koldunov, were dismissed.

It was not made clear whether Konstantinov was dismissed before or after Mathias Rust, 19, embarrassed Soviet officials on May 28 by penetrating the Soviet frontier, crossing hundreds of miles of Soviet airspace and landing his single-engine Cessna in Red Square.

Severe Crackdown

But the Red Star article did make it clear that the Rust incident has resulted in a severe crackdown on high-level military leaders by the party hierarchy.

It said that in addition to Konstantinov, two air force generals and an army general and a colonel, plus an unspecified number of other officers, have been expelled from the party and thus marked for dismissal from their military posts.

All were accused of demoralizing troops under their command by using old-style, bullying tactics and failing to conform with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policy of perestroika, or reconstruction.

Diplomatic analysts said the disciplinary moves reported by Red Star constitute a clear signal to every Soviet military commander that party directives are to be heeded.

Reprimands Noted

According to Red Star, Boris N. Yeltsin, the Moscow party chief and a strong ally of Gorbachev, has reprimanded military chiefs about the Rust incident. It quoted Yeltsin as saying:

"Moscow working collectives want the military commanders to look them in the eye and tell them honestly how this could happen. Certain military leaders grew too cocky and ignored the political organs and bodies."

The paper quoted him as saying that this attitude led to a collapse of discipline, to nepotism and a lack of preparedness and training, and that as a result "officers lost touch with their soldiers."

Meanwhile, Rust remained in Lefortovo military prison, where he has been held since his arrival here. His parents, Karl-Heinz and Monika Rust of Hamburg, visited him for a second time Wednesday before departing for home.

Soviet officials are trying to determine whether Rust planned the flight himself or had help.

Asserting Strict Control

The article in Wednesday's Red Star indicated that the party leadership is asserting strict control over the military in advance of an important meeting of the party Central Committee expected to take place next week.

Ever since the death of Defense Minister Dmitri F. Ustinov in 1984, the armed forces have not been represented in the Politburo by a full member. Sokolov, before his dismissal, was a candidate, or non-voting, member.

Konstantinov, who had been responsible for air defense in the Moscow district since 1980, is 64, well below normal retirement age for a man of his rank.

The Red Star article said that Konstantinov's successor, Col. Gen. V. Tsarkov, was also criticized by Yeltsin, for not doing enough to improve air defenses after he took command.

The officers ejected from the party were identified as Lt. Gen. N. Markov and Maj. Gen. V. Peznichenko, both of the air force, and Maj. Gen. Y. Brazhnikov and Col. V. Yakubenko, both of the army.

The Red Star article suggested that other top officers in the Moscow air defense command may yet be punished.

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