MOSCOW, JUNE 17 -- Another Soviet marshal has been fired and a group of top officers expelled from the Communist Party as the shake-up of the Soviet military continues in the wake of the landing of a small West German airplane in Red Square on May 28.
According to today's issue of Red Star, the armed forces newspaper, Moscow party chief Boris Yeltsin strongly criticized local military commanders for failing to correct problems of discipline and abuse in the armed forces.
Marshal Anatoly Konstantinov, commander of the Moscow air district, has been dismissed for failing to establish order in his command, and four named ranking officers, "among others," were expelled from the party, the paper said. It did not say when Konstantinov was fired.
Soviet law requires that a communist be removed from the party before being put on trial, and some analysts saw the expulsions announced today as clearing the way for courts-martial.
Yeltsin's presence at the meeting was seen as another sign of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's determination to exert firm control over the military after the national embarrassment over the flight by 19-year-old Mathias Rust past Soviet air defenses.
The incident has exposed the Soviet military to the kind of tough criticism that has prevailed in other sectors of Soviet life since Gorbachev took charge more than two years ago. Until now, the Defense Ministry -- one of the pillars of government -- had remained outside the "restructuring" process.
"It is the first time that such a sharp and frank exchange has taken place," the newspaper quoted Yeltsin as saying at the meeting.
"The party has had the strength to speak before the whole world about the crisis situation in society, but in the military district, it was 'everything is fine, everything is fine,' " he said. "Perhaps, only with the current situation has 'restructuring' begun in the military district."
Others at the meeting alluded to the kind of abuse of rank that has become commonplace in the Soviet military, but until now has only rarely been exposed publicly.
A young sergeant asked why time is wasted on certain kinds of construction work -- a query seen by some as an allusion to the practice of using soldiers to build dachas, or country houses, and other projects for ranking officers.
The obligation of military officers to fulfill the party's directives was stressed at the meeting. The command's party leadership was criticized for promoting "show-off" attitudes, servility and lack of vigilance.
Red Star said Konstantinov had failed to translate party directives into concrete action. "Shortcomings piled up over the years," it said.
Konstantinov, who has headed Moscow air defenses since at least 1980, has been replaced by Col. Gen. V. Tsarkov, who also addressed the party meeting.
Two days after Rust landed his plane at the edge of Red Square, the defense minister, Marshal Sergei Sokolov, and the chief of the country's air defense forces, Alexander Koldunov, were removed from their posts. The Politburo, meeting on May 30, harshly rebuked the military for its careless handling of the small plane's overflight of Soviet territory.
Soviet authorities are still holding Rust in Moscow's Lefortovo military prison, awaiting the results of an investigation into his actions. Rust's parents flew here from Hamburg this week to see their son and said yesterday that he had no complaints about his treatment.
Rust faces possible trial on charges of violating Soviet air space, an offense that carries a maximum 10-year jail term. Soviet officials have indicated privately that he will probably go to trial, but western diplomats have speculated that he will be released before serving a sentence.