Gorbachev fires Soviet military commander

December 07 1991
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MOSCOW, Dec. 7, 1991 (UPI) -- President Mikhail Gorbachev fired the Soviet Union's armed forces chief of staff in an order issued Saturday and replaced him with an officer who defied the August coup attempt, the Soviet news agency Tass said. -- Gen. Vladimir Lobov was replaced by Viktor Samsonov, the former commander of the Leningrad military district, Tass said in its two- sentence report, which gave no reason for the firing.

Tass said Gorbachev signed a decree removing Lobov from his post.

The independent news agency Interfax said the firing came as a surprise to the Soviet Defense Ministry press center and that Lobov lost his job as part of a military restructuring.

Samsonov, a general colonel, was the chief military officer for the Leningrad district, now St. Petersburg. When the August coup started, he was named head of the Leningrad emergency commission, and he announced the state of emergency and curfew.

However, he had a change of heart and refused to let the troops enter the city and ordered approaching tanks to stop at the city limits. Interfax said St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak persuaded Samsonov to oppose the coup.

Soviet television news reports Saturday also reported the change of command without giving any reason for Lobov's removal.

Separate reports Saturday said a new coup was being plotted among military officials and others. None of the reports drew any direct connection between Gorbachev firing Lobov and the almost daily rumors and discussion in the Soviet press of another possible coup.

''Another coup is being carefully planned in the Soviet Interior Ministry, KGB and Defense Ministry,'' Sergei Belozertsev, a member of the Soviet Parliament and member of the coup investigation committee, told the Russian Information Agency.

''There is also a plot against the current Defense Minister, Yevgeny Shaposhnikov,'' Belozertsev claimed.

The RIA report also quoted Belozertsev as saying, ''A secret organization based on former Communist Party structures is functioning in these organs. At their meetings they plan to overthrow the existing governments. They even collect money for that.''

One Moscow City Council deputy, Vitaly Urazhstev, also alleged that military plotters were hatching a new coup.

''A new coup is coming,'' Urazhstev told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, saying that the military would support it this time. ''And I assure you they're getting ready for it. The lights in their houses are on all night.''

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