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Lev Rokhlin, Jewish general and critic of Yeltsin, dies at 51

MOSCOW, July 6 (JTA) — Lev Rokhlin, a Russian Jewish general who emerged as a hero during the war in Chechnya and who later became known as a bitter critic of President Boris Yeltsin, has been shot dead. Police said the wife of Rokhlin, 51, confessed to the crime, which reportedly occurred while the general was sleeping. According to some reports, Rokhlin’s wife has been suffering from depression. Rokhlin, one of the few Jews to reach the top of the Russian military, quickly rose through the ranks during and after the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which took place during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1993, he became the head of Russia’s 8th Army — the only Jew to reach such a rank in Russia since World War II. During the war in Chechnya, Rokhlin was credited with taking the southern Russian breakaway region’s capital of Grozny in January 1995. Frustrated with the bloodshed, he left the army a few weeks later. He then refused to accept a medal of honor for leading the Grozny offensive, saying he saw nothing glorious in “fighting a war on my own land.” Following his retirement, Rokhlin was elected to the Russian Parliament, where he chaired the Defense Committee until this spring. During the past two years, Rokhlin, who formed his own movement called In Defense of the Army, consistently criticized Yeltsin for the war in Chechnya and for low morale in the military. More recently, Rokhlin had been moving closer with radicals in the Parliament and had lost much of his credibility as a serious politician. Rokhlin never spoke much about his Jewish roots, but never denied them. After he was killed, a leading Moscow daily newspaper credited him with keeping his Jewish-sounding name in spite of the fact that this certainly hindered his Soviet military career.

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