MOSCOW (AP) _ A controversial general who has been increasingly critical of Russia's military and government leaders was recalled to Moscow for talks Thursday, the same day he had returned to his headquarters.

Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed was summoned to the capital by Defense Minister Pavel Grachev to discuss the future of Lebed's 14th Army, Defense Ministry spokesman Vladimir Kosarev told the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies.

Lebed had barely returned to his headquarters in the former Soviet republic of Moldova from a meeting in Moscow with the chief of the General Staff, Mikhail Kolesnikov.

At his office, Lebed denied rumors that Kolesnikov offered him a top post in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic where Russian troops are helping the government in a civil war.

Lebed's 14th Army is stationed in Trans-Dniester, a predominantly Russian and Ukrainian region that wants to break away from Moldova, where ethnic Romanians predominate. Lebed, who is popular among the troops, opposes pulling Russian soldiers out.

When Russia's government agreed this month with Moldova to withdraw the troops within three years, Grachev ordered the 14th Army reorganized.

The move was widely interpreted as an effort to oust the 44-year-old Lebed, but it backfired. Lebed's officers protested, and some Russians began collecting signatures urging Lebed to run for president in 1996. President Boris Yeltsin then said Lebed's removal might upset stability in Moldova.