Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov is apparently being tapped to replace Vice-Admiral Konstantin Sidenko in the Pacific Fleet, according to Russian press agencies and a Kommersant source in the Navy Main Staff.
Sidenko will command the new Eastern Military District and Combined Strategic Command (OSK) East. Chirkov will be replaced in the Baltic Fleet by his chief of staff, Rear-Admiral Sergey Farkov. Kommersant’s source calls these changes a ‘normal rotation.’
Gzt.ru’s source says the Pacific Fleet is expecting the Chirkov announcement ‘any minute,’ but drawing up the papers, including the President’s decree on the appointment, is ongoing.
Viktor Viktorovich Chirkov is a surface warfare officer with Pacific Fleet roots. He was born on 8 September 1959 in Alma-Ata, capital of the former Kazakh SSR. In 1982, he graduated from the Vladivostok Higher Naval School and became head of the mine-torpedo department on old Riga-class corvette Lun in the Pacific Fleet. He served as assistant commander of a corvette, then executive officer of Kotlin-class destroyer Vozbuzhdennyy.
In 1986-1987, Chirkov completed Higher Special Officers’ Classes in Leningrad, and became commander of the infamous Krivak-class frigate Storozhevoy. Under a mutinous crew, this Soviet Baltic Fleet unit tried, unsuccessfully, to defect in 1975. Later it transferred to the Pacific Fleet.
From 1990 to 1993, Chirkov commanded Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Spirodonov. He was deputy chief of staff for an ASW ship division, deputy division commander, and commander of an ASW ship division during 1993-1998. In 1997, he completed the Kuznetsov Naval Academy as a correspondence student.
After graduating from the Military Academy of the General Staff in 2000, Chirkov served for five years as chief of staff, first deputy commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East on Kamchatka. In the first years of this assignment, he served under Vice-Admiral Sidenko.
In 2005-2007, he commanded the Primorskiy Mixed Forces Flotilla. For the next two years, he was chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Baltic Fleet, and became its commander in September 2009.
Chirkov is married with two sons.
A Pacific Fleet staff source told Gzt.ru Chirkov is happily anticipated since he’s an old friend and ‘not an outsider.’ Another calls him a wise and honorable officer who knows his business.
Vitaliy Shlykov talked to Gzt.ru about the Pacific Fleet’s growing importance:
“In the Baltic there’s nothing to do, everyone’s friends, allies. But the Pacific Ocean is the future, it’s necessary to turn all attention there. And we don’t have enemies there, so there’s time to strengthen this fleet before there’s a confrontation between the U.S. and China.”
“Of course, given this state of affairs, the significance of the fleet is growing sharply in comparison with Russia’s other fleets.”
NVO’s Viktor Litovkin notes that Chirkin will be first to command the Pacific Fleet in its new condition of subordination to OSK East. He thinks the new commander has multiple problems to solve, including obtaining new ships, dismantling old nuclear submarines, and building housing for servicemen. Chirkin will also have to grapple with getting contract sailors, rather than conscripts, to man his afloat forces for long deployments.