Mikhail Metzel  /  AP
The protest was prompted by Under Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's reforms; under them, as many as 200,000 officers have lost their jobs and nine of every 10 army units have been disbanded. 
updated 11/7/2010 10:17:40 AM ET 2010-11-07T15:17:40

More than 1,000 Russian military veterans and active servicemen rallied Sunday to demand the ouster of the defense minister, a civilian who is carrying out a radical reform of Russia's armed forces.

The rally was organized by veterans from the Airborne Forces, considered the most professional and proud branch of the military. But members of other branches also took part, as well as monarchists, nationalists and hardline Orthodox Christians.

Under Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's reforms, as many as 200,000 officers have lost their jobs and nine of every 10 army units have been disbanded. The reforms, which have strong backing from the Kremlin, are aimed at turning Russia's bloated and inefficient military into a modern force.

    1. Castaway's parents thought they would never see him again

      The father of Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga said he was told his long-lost son vanished on a fishing trip but he didn’t have the heart to break the news to his ailing wife.

    2. Scotland legalizes same-sex marriage
    3. Weapons deal strengthened Assad: US intel chief
    4. Outcry over the fate of Sochi's stray dogs
    5. Olympic construction leaves Sochi residents in the cold

Speaker after speaker accused Serdyukov of selling out the army, threatening Russia's security and acting in the interests of Zionists. Anti-Semitic sentiments permeated many of the speeches.

Retired Col. Vladimir Kvachkov, who served in military intelligence, said plans were being made to fight back.

"Paratroopers, we haven't carried out our main special operation, our main battle, yet," he said. "Our special operation, our main (missile) launch, our main campaign at sea are ahead."

Kvachkov, 62, spent three years in prison on charges of attempting to kill Anatoly Chubais, who was instrumental in the privatizations of Russian industry in the 1990s. He was acquitted in 2008.

The rally was triggered by Serdyukov's visit to the Airborne Forces Academy, where he gave a harsh dressing-down to the head of the academy over the unauthorized construction of an Orthodox church on its grounds.

Many of the participants in Sunday's rally said they were angry that Serdyukov did not want to see churches built on military bases.

  1. Most popular

They also bristled at being led by a civilian defense minister, the country's first in 90 years.

"We hope that civil servant Serdyukov — I cannot say 'comrade' or use his military rank, if he has one — will listen to us and submit his resignation of his own free will, but there is no tradition of this in Russia," said retired Lt. Col. Vladimir Bondarenko, 50.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments