The first Soviet troop pullouts from Eastern Europe will begin Tuesday when the 13th Tank Division is withdrawn from Kiskunhalas in Central Hungary, Soviet and Hungarian military officials said Friday.
The 88 units of the Soviet army stationed in Hungary will be reduced by one-fourth, a decrease of 10,000 soldiers, by the end of 1990, Col. Gen. Matvei Burlakov, commander-in-chief of the Soviet Southern Army Group, told a news conference.Another four withdrawals to the Soviet Union are expected this year. They include a tank training regiment, a fighter regiment, a chemical weapons battalion, an air defense missile regiment, and other independent units with their full weaponry.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev announced last Dec. 7 plans for a unilateral reduction by about 500,000 troops during the next few years, including 50,000 from East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
The troop withdrawals from Hungary, the first of the planned pullouts, will be completed in 1990 with the removal of the airborne assault units of Tokol airport near Budapest and the non-commissioned officers school. The withdrawals will leave 66 Soviet units.
The pullback beginning Tuesday includes more than 450 of the total 1,300 Soviet tanks on Hungarian soil, plus more than 200 mine-launchers and guns, over 300 vehicles and other military equipment.
Ten barracks and about 900 military apartments will be freed and handed over to the Hungarian Defense Ministry.
The remaining Soviet troops will be relocated from the Western part of Hungary to create a "zone of peace" along the Austro-Hungarian border, Burlakov said.
Asked whether he saw a time ahead when Hungary could be a neutral country, he said, "This belongs to the competence of the higher echelons of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, but we must act so that this time comes as soon as possible."
"We were just better prepared in Hungary than elsewhere to move and this is why we can start first," Burkalov said.
The Soviet troop withdrawals from Hungary will be followed by pullbacks from East Germany and Czechoslovakia in May.
Soviet troops have been stationed in Hungary since 1956.