Russia’s Defense Chief Reported Angry Over Army Gun Smuggling
BERLIN (AP) _ Russia’s defense minister is demanding that the commander of Russian military forces still in eastern Germany crack down on gun smuggling and other crimes by army officers, a magazine said Saturday.
Der Spiegel said Defense Minister Pavel Grachev apparently sent the order after German police seized more than 9,000 military pistols - 9 mm Makarovs - near the Russian military headquarters just south of Berlin last Monday.
It was the first case to come to light of major black-market arms dealing by high-ranking Russian officers stationed in Germany.
The pistols were flown into the Russian military airfield at Sperenberg and seized just outside its gates, said Maj. Gen. Hartmut Foertsch, the German commissioner overseeing the Russian pullout from former East Germany.
Prosecutors are investigating and no arrests have been announced. Authorities said the army pistols were destined for a Hamburg company.
Grachev complained in a telegram to Gen. Matvei Burlakov, commander of Russian forces in Germany, that ″society’s vices″ have penetrated ″deeper and deeper in officers’ circles,″ Der Spiegel said. It said he demanded greater discipline.
The roughly 70,000 Russian soldiers and civilians remaining on former Soviet military bases in Germany - more than 540,000 lived in former East Germany before its demise - are all due out by September.
Many were among the Soviet military elite, but can look forward only to drastically reduced pay and poorer living standards back in Russia.
Russian military bases have become magnets for criminals, from dealers in illegal weapons to vendors of stolen cars and black-market cigarettes.