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Defense Official Tells Army Day Gala There Will be No Military Coup

February 22, 1991

MOSCOW (AP) _ A top general used the formal Army Day address at a Kremlin gala Friday to assure that the military has no plans to overthrow the government.

″The representatives of the armed forces do not strive for power,″ said Gen. Konstantin Kochetov, first deputy minister of defense. ″They are not preparing a military coup.″

A select audience of about 1,500, including President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, heard the speech at the Palace of Congresses.

Kochetov did not mention Gorbachev by name in his speech, which repeatedly pledged allegiance to the Constitution and socialism. But he denounced a statement made Tuesday by Russian republic President Boris N. Yeltsin calling for Gorbachev’s resignation.

″The army and the navy reject the ambitious statement of Boris Yeltsin, his line of opposition and deepening of the split in our society,″ Kochetov said.

Yeltsin suggested that Gorbachev should be replaced by the Federation Council, which includes the presidents of all 15 Soviet republics, including Yeltsin himself.

Gorbachev has often been at odds with the republic leaders, who are demanding more authority and, in some cases, outright independence. He did not speak during the Army Day ceremony nor did he mingle with the crowd.

Some observers have accused Gorbachev of succumbing to a creeping coup, agreeing to the demands of old-style Communists and the military in order to retain power.

But extreme hard-liners also want Gorbachev’s job. A group calling itself the National Salvation Committee is lobbying legislators to dump Gorbachev and hand over power to them.

Kochetov blamed the persistent rumors of an impending military coup on reformers like Yeltsin.

″It is an invention made in the cozy offices of our democratic leaders and noisy rallies,″ Kochetov said.

Just outside the Kremlin wall, another of those rallies was filling the cold winter night with shouts of support for Yeltsin, who has been under fire since making his speech and could even lose his post as Russian president.

The Russian legislature voted Friday to call a special session of its parent body, the Russian Congress, on March 28. The congress has the authority to replace Yeltsin, who won his job with only a four-vote margin last summer.

In his speech, Kochetov was reticent about the gulf and upbeat about relations with the West. It was in a stark contrast with recent newspaper articles featuring strong criticism by the Soviet military of allied forces in the Persian Gulf and civilian casualties in Iraq.

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