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Top Army Brass Deny Corruption Allegations

July 10, 1996

MOSCOW (AP) _ In a scandal that highlights the struggle for power within Russia’s army, top generals angrily defended themselves Tuesday against a lawmaker’s accusations that they embezzled millions of dollars in state funds.

The accusations are a slur on the military as a whole, Gen. Konstantin Kobets told reporters. ``That undermines the national security as a whole,″ Kobets said.

Lawmaker Lev Rokhlin, defense committee chairman and himself a retired general, raised the allegations in a report presented to Parliament on Friday.

Rokhlin detailed a series of allegedly corrupt deals, with culprits including fired defense minister Pavel Grachev and Kobets, a candidate to replace Grachev.

The lawmaker claimed that Kobets closed his eyes to a deal in which a construction company founded by his son took state funds to build apartments for officers. The apartments were never built.

Behind the timing of the disclosures, Rokhlin has admitted, is his wish to keep ``certain candidates″ for defense minister _ primarily Kobets _ from getting the powerful job.

Gens. Yuri Rodionov and Vasily Vorobyov _ also mentioned in Rokhlin’s report _ upheld their innocence in interviews published Tuesday.

``Rokhlin had no facts, only inconcrete statements,″ Grachev told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.

Trying to turn the tables on Rokhlin, he said the lawmaker had failed to pay for $23,000 worth of renovations to his apartment.

Leading politicians _ including new security chief Alexander Lebed, who has pledged a crackdown on corruption _ are lobbying publicly for their own choices as defense minister as charges and countercharges fly among the potential candidates.

Kobets said Tuesday he doesn’t even want the position, although he’d take it if President Boris Yeltsin insisted.

He said his son had no relation to the construction company, and insisted that the apartment deal was merely a commercial blunder. He said the construction company agreed to complete unfinished construction, unaware of major project failures, which made it unfeasible.

The dispute was finally settled and the defense ministry is to receive the promised apartments next year, Kobets said. He didn’t explain how the state would be compensated for the delay in construction.

But even Kobets acknowledged that the corruption is rampant in the Russian army.

``Society is at such a stage now that corruption can’t be uprooted completely,″ he said. ``What we should do is to break the wave of corruption.″

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