Category Archives: Military Leadership

VDV Commander Injured

Russia’s Airborne Troops Commander — General-Colonel Andrey Serdyukov — was hurt in a September 15 car crash, but the extent of his injuries is not exactly clear. Russian news media reported the accident, but the MOD has not.

General-Colonel Serdyukov

General-Colonel Serdyukov

The accident occurred near Pechenga in Murmansk Oblast. The video shows Serdyukov’s motorcade speeding up the middle of a two-lane highway led by a police escort before his van gets clipped by a car headed in the opposite direction. The driver of that vehicle reportedly died.

According to most accounts, Serdyukov was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and reported to be in satisfactory condition.

One of Serdyukov’s deputies, General-Major Vladimir Kochetkov, was a passenger in his van along with two other VDV servicemen.

Lenta.ru reports that Serdyukov suffered serious head injuries and fractured vertebrae. It says Kochetkov has multiple fractures. 

Recall that former VDV commander Vladimir Shamanov was injured in a serious late 2010 crash, and spent several months recovering before returning to duty. The retired Shamanov chairs the State Duma’s Defense Committee.

The 55-year-old Serdyukov took over command of the VDV in October 2016. The fast-burning career airborne officer held important field commands in the VDV and Ground Troops before serving as chief of staff and first deputy commander of the Southern MD between 2013 and 2016. He is apparently no relation to disgraced former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.

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Army Commanders

Time to update the leadership lineup for Russia’s army-level ground formations. Few commanders remain in place since last look in early 2016.

Russia's twelve ground armies

Russia’s twelve ground armies

The Russian Army expanded from seven to ten ground armies in 2010 by resurrecting or adding the 6th, 49th, and 29th CAAs.  More recently, it went to 12 by standing up the 1st TA and 8th CAA.  The process of filling out these armies with personnel and equipment is likely a challenge for their commanders.

The rundown of armies, headquarters, MD/OSK, and commanders looks like this:

1st TA…Bakovka…Western…General-Lieutenant Aleksey Avdeyev.

6th CAA…Agalatovo…Western…General-Lieutenant Andrey Kuzmenko.

20th CAA…Voronezh…Western…General-Major Aleksandr Peryazev.

8th CAA…Novocherkassk…Southern…General-Lieutenant Sergey Kuzovlev.

49th CAA…Stavropol…Southern…General-Lieutenant Sergey Sevryukov.

58th CAA…Vladikavkaz…Southern…General-Major Yevgeniy Nikiforov.

2nd CAA…Samara…Central…General-Major Gennadiy Zhidko.

41st CAA…Novosibirsk…Central…General-Major Aleksey Zavizon.

36th CAA…Ulan Ude…Eastern…General-Major Dmitriy Kovalenko.

29th CAA…Chita…Eastern…General-Major Yevgeniy Poplavskiy.

35th CAA…Belogorsk…Eastern…General-Major Sergey Chebotarev.

5th CAA…Ussuriysk…Eastern…General-Lieutenant Valeriy Asapov.

After his long tenure in the Transbaykal, General-Lieutenant Avdeyev replaced General-Lieutenant Chayko as commander of the new 1st TA.  Chayko is now Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Eastern MD.

General-Major Zhidko was acting commander of the 2nd CAA, but he now appears to be permanent.

General-Major Chebotarev replaced Avdeyev in the 29th CAA.

Only General-Lieutenants Kuzmenko and Sevryukov and General-Major Kovalenko remain where they were 18 months ago.

General-Major Yevgeniy Nikiforov

General-Major Yevgeniy Nikiforov

Numerous former army commanders made the next traditional career step as deputy MD commanders.  Currently, they include General-Lieutenants Tsilko, Romanchuk, Gurulev, Seritskiy, Kaloyev, Solomatin, and Turchenyuk.

Others may have fallen off the promotion track.  General-Colonel Tonkoshkurov got his third star at the General Staff’s Main Organization-Mobilization Directorate (GOMU). He’s likely to remain a long time, but it’s usually a terminal post.  General-Lieutenant Yudin is the chief of the Organization-Mobilization Directorate (OMU) of the Western MD staff. General-Lieutenant Salmin is now reportedly serving in some capacity under Admiral Avakyants in the Pacific Fleet.

The jump from one- to two-star rank is not so difficult for these senior Russian officers. They’ve already held important field commands.  It’s expected that they should make general-lieutenant.

Their third star, however, is not so routine. They have to be tapped, or in line, for more significant responsibilities.  Responsibilities that are strategic or operational-strategic in essence or that concern the defense of the entire country.  

Besides MD commander, some include chief, chief of staff, or deputy chief of an armed service, chief of a major service branch, or chief of an MOD or General Staff main directorate.

Russia Day Promotions

As noted earlier, there were relatively few Russia Day promotions in the MOD, possibly because President Vladimir Putin handed out a lot of new brass to his personal National Guard.

But to review, there was a single three-star promotion, and five two-star promotions for MOD officers.

Eleven men received their first stars including the:

  • Commanders of the 29th and 60th Missile Divisions of the RVSN;
  • Commander of the 136th Motorized Rifle Brigade;
  • Deputy Commander of Space Troops, Aerospace Forces;
  • Chief of Communications, Eastern MD;
  • Chief of the Personnel Directorate, Northern Fleet;
  • Chief of “Resource Support,” Western MD;
  • Director of the Transportation Support Directorate, MOD; and
  • An associate professor in the Strategy Department of MAGS.
General-Major Shulyak as a colonel.JPG

General-Major Shulyak as a colonel

The latter — 48-year-old General-Major Viktor Shulyak — received his Hero of the Russian Federation award as a young Naval Infantry officer in Chechnya in January 1995.  He commanded a Northern Fleet air-assault company in the fight for the Council of Ministers building in central Groznyy.  He personally destroyed five enemy firing positions and was pretty severely wounded.

He went on to command a battalion, serve in a directorate of the General Staff, and graduate from the Military Academy of the General Staff where he remains a faculty member.

Two new general-majors were not identified precisely, but one is probably in the Aerospace Forces and the other might be a deputy chief of staff for the Central MD.

The promotion list now contains names of more than 400 generals and admirals against the 730 the MOD says it has.

Russia Day Promotions Preview

Yesterday Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin issued a decree with a short list of 17 MOD general and flag officer promotions.  Tomorrow those promoted can toast themselves along with the 27th anniversary of the RF’s declaration of state sovereignty.

Space Troops Commander Aleksandr Golovko became a three-star general-colonel.

Colonel-General Aleksandr Golovko wearing his old two-star rank

General-Colonel Aleksandr Golovko wearing his old two-star rank

The Southern MD’s 58th CAA Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander Sergey Kuzovlev was promoted to general-lieutenant with a second star, as was the Western MD’s 6th CAA Commander Andrey Kuzmenko.  Commander of the Eastern MD’s 11th Air Forces and Air Defense Army Yevgeniy Tuchkov also became a general-lieutenant.  The chiefs of the MOD’s сommunications and troop air defense academies also got their second stars.

Eleven one-star general-major and rear-admiral promotions rounded out the MOD list.

Somewhat surprisingly, Putin’s National Guard got its own ukaz yesterday containing two three-star, six two-star, and four one-star promotions.

His Greatest Achievement?

Putin chairing Military-Industrial Commission session in Rybinsk on April 25, 2017 (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin chairing Military-Industrial Commission session in Rybinsk on April 25, 2017 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

In the most recent iteration of what is basically an annual poll, Levada asked respondents to select one answer to the following question:  “What would you call the main achievement of Vladimir Putin during his years in power?”

Some 17 percent of those polled picked “Increasing combat capability and reform of the armed forces.”  It was the top response in this year’s poll.

Below find the reaction to this response over time.

Putin's Greatest Achievement The Military.

Positive reaction to this choice scuffled along for years.  Just three percent of those polled picked it in the waning months of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s tenure as minister of defense.  It jumped, however, to 8 percent in August 2014, following the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  It reached 14 percent a year after Moscow intervened in the Syrian civil war.

External events greatly influence this particular Levada poll.

For instance, in early 2008, 21 percent of respondents said Putin’s greatest achievement was “Economic development of the country.”  Two years later, following the recession of 2008-2009, only 12 percent could agree with this.  And, seven years later, that number is still 12.

Even in mid-2009, 22 percent said Putin’s greatest trick was “Increasing the standard of living of citizens, growth of wages and pensions.”  That number now stands at 8 percent.

Unfortunately, some responses seem eternal.

Typically only 1 percent or less of those polled pick “Defense of democracy and political freedoms of citizens” or “Improving relations between people of different nationalities in Russia.”

In this iteration of the poll, 8 percent indicated that they don’t see any achievements and 4 percent found it hard to say.

The 17 percent response on the military is good news for Putin.  As for many regimes, it’s an easy place to score points with the average citizen.  Other arenas are more complicated.  But the Kremlin has successfully managed a turnaround in the perception of the armed forces.

The problem is events can erode high poll numbers.  For the Russian military, they could include things like a large-scale attack on Russian forces in Syria, widespread arrears in military pay, a submarine sinking, a huge ammo depot fire, or the death of soldiers in a collapsing barracks.  

In isolation, none is enough to dent a prevailing opinion strongly underwritten by the steady drumbeat of a Defense Ministry PR campaign.  But, over time, they accumulate and can change attitudes.  Like everything else, poll numbers that go up usually come down.

Handshake and Photo

Never discount the potential significance of a handshake and photo with the supreme commander-in-chief.

On March 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin received Ministry of Defense general and flag officers (along with some from the FSB, FSO, MVD, etc.) in the Kremlin’s Georgiyevskiy Hall.

The meeting is a regular affair where Putin addresses men in uniform elevated to new positions of responsibility.

Putin starts with the MOD three-stars (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin’s greets MOD three-stars (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin started down the row with MOD three-star generals — General-Colonels Sergey Rudskoy, Aleksandr Zhuravlev, and Gennadiy Zibrov.  Rudskoy is Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate.  Zhuravlev commanded Russian forces in Syria in the last half of 2016 while serving as Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD.  He’s now a deputy chief of the General Staff. Zibrov heads the Air Force Academy named for Zhukovskiy and Gagarin.

Putin greets General-Lieutenant Zavizon (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin greets General-Lieutenant Zavizon (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Fourth-in-line is General-Lieutenant Mikhail Teplinskiy, the fast-burner replacement for Zhuravlev in the Southern MD.  He’s followed by new LRA Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Kobylash.  Then General-Lieutenant Aleksey Zavizon who reportedly fought in the Donbas and commands the Central MD’s 41st Army.  Lastly, the MOD’s principal spokesman General-Major Igor Konashenkov who’s in charge of the military’s Information and Mass Communications Department.  He’s been there awhile but the organization was called a directorate until recently.

Putin shakes with Rear-Admiral Yakushev (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin shakes with Rear-Admiral Yakushev (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Next is Chief of Staff of the Pacific Fleet’s Primorsk Composite Forces Flotilla, Rear-Admiral Vladimir Yakushev.  To his right might be General-Major Denis Lyamin, commander of the Central MD’s new 90th Tank Division.

The full line-up (photo Kremlin.ru)

The full line-up (photo: Kremlin.ru)

After Lyamin is General-Major Tagir Gadzhiyev of the 1st Composite Aviation Division in the Southern MD.

The balance are difficult to identify, excepting the second to last naval officer who is Rear-Admiral Oleg Krivorog of the Black Sea Fleet’s 30th Surface Ship Division.

TVZvezda’s coverage of the ceremony is in the video below (starting at 1:25).

Promotions for Defenders’ Day

In early February, the MOD’s Main Personnel Directorate (GUK) Chief held a special conclave.

A featured guest was Chief of the State Service and Personnel Directorate of the RF President’s Administration, Anton Fedorov.  He and his subordinates maintain President Vladimir Putin’s nomenklatura of general and flag officer appointments in the RF Armed Forces.

Anton Fedorov

The GUK forwards names to fill general and admiral positions.  It recommends candidates for promotion to the “highest officer” (O-7 and above) ranks.  But Mr. Fedorov’s group ultimately vets people and frames decisions on lists that Putin issues.

Professional competence is verified by the GUK.  In the Kremlin, however, they are more concerned about reliability and loyalty to Putin.  No doubt the FSB provides input from its channels in the military, through its headquarters, to Fedorov in the PA.

At the recent GUK assemblage, Fedorov declared there are 730 general and admiral duty posts in the armed forces.  Thirty-eight are vacant, but 15 are in the process of being filled.

So let’s call it a general or admiral for every 1,370 Russian troops (a million authorized).  The U.S. number is 1 per 1,467 (886 for 1,300,000 active personnel).

Moscow reportedly had 1,100 in the “highest officer” ranks early in former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s ill-fated tenure.  If memory serves, the number was reduced to 1,300-1,400 from 1,700-1,800 in the early 2000s while the Russian military was still authorized at significantly more than a million men.

Thus endeth the digression….

Below find a close look at the promotion list Putin signed out on the eve of Defenders’ Day 2017.  The updated list of 395 Russian generals and admirals is here.

The media made much of the promotion of officers connected to operations in Syria.

Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate Sergey Rudskoy got his third star. Rudskoy is frequently the MOD’s spokesman on the situation in Syria.  His deputy, Stanislav Gadzhimagomedov, who has been the Russian military representative in talks with the Syrian opposition, got his second star.

Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Aleksandr Zhuravlev became a general-colonel.  He served first as chief of staff for the Russian group of forces in Syria, then as commander in the second half of 2016.

Sergey Kobylash, commander of Russia’s LRA which has bombed Syrian territory, became a general-lieutenant.

Many promotees, however, are connected to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, or serve in the Southern MD and Black Sea Fleet.

One-star rank went to commanders or chiefs of the following:

  • 1st Composite Air Division
  • 30th Surface Ship Division
  • Crimean Naval Base
  • Black Sea Higher Naval School
  • 12th Reserve Command
  • 31st Air Defense Division

41st Combined Arms Army Commander Aleksey Zavizon, who reportedly led Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, became a two-star.

The head of the Russian contingent of ceasefire monitors in Donbas — Andrey Kozlov — became a general-major.

The General Staff’s representative in Normandy format negotiations Yaroslav Moskalik got his first star.

Other Promotions

NTsUO Chief Mikhail Mizintsev got his third star; one of his deputies got his first.

Shoygu got a star for his “special assignments” assistant who previously served with him in MChS.

Airborne Troops got a couple one-star promotions for Vladimir Shamanov’s old military assistant and the VDV’s personnel chief.

The chief and deputy chief of the Military Academy of Aerospace Defense were both promoted, to general-lieutenant and general-major respectively.  The academy just celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Other promotions to one-star rank included the commanders or chiefs of the following:

  • Ground Troops Main Staff
  • Navy Main Staff
  • 4th Combat Employment and Retraining Center, Aerospace Forces
  • 62nd Missile Division, RVSN
  • 90th Tank Division, Central MD