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Dmitry Yazov, former Soviet defense minister, dies at 95

February 25, 2020 GMT
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FILE In this file photo taken on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, applauds former Soviet Defense Minister, Marshal Dmitry Yazov on his 90th birthday in Moscow, Russia. Yazov, who served as the Soviet Defense Minister and joined a botched hard-line coup that precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died. He was 95. Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hailed Yazov who died Tuesday. Feb. 25, 2020 as a “true patriot.” (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
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FILE In this file photo taken on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, applauds former Soviet Defense Minister, Marshal Dmitry Yazov on his 90th birthday in Moscow, Russia. Yazov, who served as the Soviet Defense Minister and joined a botched hard-line coup that precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died. He was 95. Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hailed Yazov who died Tuesday. Feb. 25, 2020 as a “true patriot.” (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — Dmitry Yazov, who served as the Soviet Defense Minister and joined a botched coup against then leader Mikhail Gorbachev that precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died. He was 95.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hailed Yazov, who died Tuesday, as a “true patriot” who helped bolster the nation’s military capability.

Yazov was recruited in the Red Army in 1941 when he was 17 and fought throughout World War II as an infantry officer. He was badly wounded twice in combat but returned to the ranks and kept fighting.

After the war, Yazov rose steadily through the ranks to become the commander of the Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia in 1979. Five years later he was appointed the top military commander in the far eastern part of the Soviet Union.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev appointed Yazov defense minister in 1987 and promoted him to the highest military rank of Marshal three years later.

Like many other members of the Soviet top brass, Yazov was critical of Gorbachev’s reforms that ended the communist party’s monopoly on power and envisaged sharp cuts in military spending.

In August 1991, Yazov joined a group of hardliners who temporarily ousted Gorbachev. Troops and tanks were deployed to central Moscow on his orders to cement control, but the coup collapsed in two days, paving the way for the Soviet breakup several months later. Yazov and other coup-plotters spent about a year-and-half in prison before being granted amnesty.

After Vladimir Putin was elected president in 2000, Yazov and other Soviet veterans were given positions as consultants to the Defense Ministry. Putin bestowed Yazov with high state awards.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Yazov will be buried Thursday at a military cemetery in Moscow.