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POLES, EX-SOVIET ARMY FIGHTING WAR OF WORDS OVER WITHDRAWAL

The conflict with the West never came, but the army of the former Soviet Union is fighting one last battle - a war of words and wills with the government over withdrawing.

Generals involved in the dispute have invoked debts going back to World War II: What the Poles are said to owe the Soviets for liberating Poland from the Nazis, and what the Poles feel they are owed for years of Soviet occupation.The Soviet pullout started in April 1991 without a formal treaty. The Russians say all combat units will be gone by November, leaving 6,000 soldiers to organize the withdrawal from eastern Germany through Poland until 1994.

The two sides don't even agree on what has been withdrawn so far.

The commander of former Soviet forces in Poland, Gen. Viktor Dubynin, says 23,000 troops have left of the 58,000 that were stationed in this country in 1989, along with hundreds of tanks, missile launchers and other heavy weapons and vehicles.

Poland says 4,700 left and about 45,000 remain.

As negotiations drag on, power companies threaten to turn off lights at the former Soviet bases and one provisioner is asking the Polish government for help collecting $9 million in arrears.

Dubynin has been especially tart in response to the pummeling his troops are taking in the Polish press. "When the lion is dead, even a monkey will pull it by the tail," he has said.

Compared with the relatively quick and cheerful retreat from Czechoslovakia and Hungary last year, the Red Army's pullout from Poland has hampered friendly relations between Poland and newly independent Russia.

President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia invited President Lech Walesa for a first meeting in Moscow this month, but Walesa declined to go until a pullout treaty is ready.

Dubynin and Polish commander Gen. Zdzislaw Ostrowski have clashed publicly over who is responsible for the slow negotiations, which have gone more than a dozen rounds since June 1990.

Still unresolved is how to reckon the costs for Soviet use of Polish property and Red Army "improvements" during the 47 years of temporary stationing to protect Poland from the West, said Col. Stefan Golebiowski.

The departing troops are leaving "devastated" buildings, stripped of fixtures from windows to radiators, said Golebiowski, who works in the Polish office overseeing the withdrawal.

The Russians say they put up 2,717 structures they now want to sell to the Poles. The Poles say 90 percent were erected illegally.