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PROMINENT GENERAL REPORTEDLY SACKED FROM ARMS EXPORT FIRM. Former Defense Minister and army General Pavel Grachev "has been relieved of his duties of adviser to the...state arms trader Rosoboroneksport...which he performed for the past 10 years," having been appointed by President Yeltsin in 1996, Interfax and reported on April 25. The news agency quoted Colonel General Vladislav Achalov, who is chairman of the Paratroopers' Union and a veteran arms trader, as saying that Grachev's ouster came as a result of "current changes in the staff" (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," May 27, 2003). Rosoboroneksport has not confirmed the report. Grachev is a career paratrooper who was decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union for his activities in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He became head of Russia's Airborne Troops in 1991 and served as defense minister from 1992-96. recalled that Grachev boasted prior to the assault on Grozny at the start of 1995 that he could "bring order to the [Chechen] republic with two paratroop regiments." At the time of the evacuation of Russian troops from united Germany in the early 1990s, investigative journalist Dmitry Kholodov wrote several articles accusing Grachev of involvement in large-scale corruption. Those charges were never proven. Kholodov was killed in 1994 when a briefcase he picked up in a Moscow train station exploded. No one was ever convicted for the murder, and Grachev never was formally accused in conjunction with it. PM

UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONTINUES TO HEAR SIDES IN POLITICAL STANDOFF. The Constitutional Court of Ukraine on April 25 entered the "final stage" of hearings into whether President Viktor Yushchenko's decree of April 2 on the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada is constitutional, UNIAN reported. The Constitutional Court's session devoted to the decree, which officially began on April 17, is taking place in a building cordoned off by police and picketed by representatives of the ruling coalition, who oppose the dissolution of parliament, as well as of the opposition, which supports Yushchenko's decree. There have so far been no serious incidents connected with the pickets. JM