Only 5 states now favor combined armed forces Ukraine seeks fleet, creation of own army

January 05, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- In a new sign of the rapid fragmentation of the Soviet army, acting Commander in Chief Yevgeny I. Shaposhnikov disclosed yesterday that only five of the 11 members of the new Commonwealth of Independent States want to join in a unified armed forces.

The remaining six, he said, want their own conventional armies, VTC although all are agreed that nuclear forces should remain under unified command.

Mr. Shaposhnikov appealed for a two-year transition period to allow the 3.7-million-member Soviet army, the world's largest, to regroup "without losses, tears and blood."

But Ukraine, which began formation of its own army Friday, pushed ahead as assertively as ever yesterday to create its own armed forces, prompting renewed protests from Russia and bringing an increasingly open dispute over possession of the Black Sea fleet closer to a head.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Konstantin Morozov told a Kiev news conference that Ukraine is intent on taking over the Black Sea fleet, a major component of the former Soviet Navy, even though Russia has claims to it as well and even though the admiral who commands it has thus far refused to turn it over.

"Our strategic line is that Ukraine is a seagoing power and should have its own fleet. And it will have one," Mr. Morozov said, according to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, or Independent Newspaper, news service.

In Moscow, however, the chairman of the Russian Parliament warned that the Russian Federation would not renounce its claims to the fleet so easily and hinted that such conflicts could tear apart the commonwealth that rose last month to take the place of the former Soviet Union.

Russia wants to be a good neighbor, Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov said, "but that doesn't mean that someone can seize our fleets and our armies without permission and try to bring them under their own jurisdiction and make them take oaths of loyalty."

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry began asking formerly Soviet troops on Ukrainian soil to swear oaths of loyalty to Ukraine beginning Friday and said all soldiers who refused to do so would be expected to serve elsewhere.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk has said that an estimated 1.3 million troops are in Ukraine. More than 44 percent of them are believed to be ethnic Russian.

When the former Soviet republics' 11 leaders agreed last Tuesday on future military arrangements, only Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova demanded their own conventional armies.

Since then, however, Belarus said it eventually wanted to take over the troops on its territory, and Mr. Shaposhnikov disclosed yesterday that only the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan supported the unified armed forces.

He also disclosed that there were now three "suitcases" of nuclear launch controls -- one in his possession, one held by Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, and one, formerly in the hands of the Soviet chief of staff, being held in reserve.

Mr. Shaposhnikov, in an interview to the Interfax news agency, did not specify when, and to whom, the third suitcase would be handed over.

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