Kuchma likes generals: New defence minister of Ukraine is a military man as well

After Ukraine blundered before the whole world hitting a Tu-154 airliner with a training missile, President Kuchma could not retain General Alexandr Kuzmuk as defence minister. However, he himself once proposed a simple framing corps’ commander for the supreme military post in the country and almost “reared” him according to his own demands. According to some informed people, the president was 100 percent sure of his defence minister’s devotion.

What Kuzmuk has made with the armed forces of his country can be seen just taking into account the missile case. Some testing areas have already reached the capital, while some missiles are searching the sky not for testing targets, but for civil airliners. And if the “moustached bin Laden” (as Kuzmuk was called in Ukraine) had not left the post, probably an atomic power station’s reactor could have been bombed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The main thing for Kuzmuk was not the troops’ training but devotion to the President. The counter-espionage service created by Kuzmuk in the Defence Ministry was not so much for gathering information about military objects of an enemy, as – for spite of Ukrainian security service - was specializing on discreditable materials against people disagreeable to the regime, including Ukrainian Security Service’s workers. This became the reason for some serious scandals between the services. As the order about Kuzmuk’s resignation appeared, everybody was saying that a civilian defence minister was necessary for Ukraine. Of course! It was clear that the military institution was left without any control of society. Nobody could say where and how budgetary money was spent by the ministry.

Political parties started to praise their candidates, while preparing civil baggy trousers for a minister.

Alas! Leonid Kuchma rejected all the suggestions about a civil minister, saying the time had not come yet for it. He could not say that it is dangerous to entrust the army to the person who has not personally swore fidelity to the president and who cannot be bought for military ranks. And then, the general staff’s chief should be kept in the country in addition to the minister. And he should be lured as well, to make sure. To be shorter, Leonid Kuchma cannot sleep well while the army is not held by iron hands of a battle general. And somebody of the kind seems to have been found.

Yesterday, it became clear that General Vladimir Shkidchenko had been appointed minister. Since October 24, after Alexandr Kuzmuk’s resignation, he was appointed acting defence minister. Before, he has been executing duties of general staff’s chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, first Deputy Minister of Defence.

The general was born in Chita (in Russia) in 1948, finished Moscow Physicotechnical Institute, Odessa High Artillery Command School, Frunze Military Academy, Military Academy of General Staff of Soviet Military Forces (again in Moscow).

Shkidchenko is without any doubt the best officer in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He is 53 years old. He is very educated and speaks English. He has many friends in Russia and other countries of the world. He is respected in Moscow, Brussels, and Washington, where he is considered to be general number one. Under the command of ordinary tankman Kuzmuk, he could not completely show his knowledge and skills. He is respected in the army as well. Because the general was consecutively moving from step to step of the military career, from commanding operative troops to receiving experience on the post of general staff’s chief. Though it is not clear if he will be able to manage with the ones who by chance achieved supreme posts in the military institution and on whom this institution’s fate depends. Let us see.

There is an interesting detail. Last year, Russian Marshal Igor Sergeev handed over to Vladimir Shkidchenko the “Hero of Russia” order with which Lieutenant General Peter Shkidchenko, the minister’s father who killed in Afghanistan, was rewarded by Vladimir Putin.

Therefore, the Ukrainian defence minister is the son of a Russian hero.

Alexandr Gorobets PRAVDA.Ru Kiev

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2001/11/13/33742.html