Category Archives: Military Leadership

GRU Deputies

Deputy (or First Deputy?) Chief of the GRU Vice-Admiral Igor Olegovich Kostyukov surfaced to give a speech on Asian regional security at the 7th Moscow Conference on International Security (April 4-5).

Habitually fearing to say intelligence, most Russian media attributed him to a “main directorate of the RF Armed Forces General Staff.”

His speech boiled down to an anti-American diatribe against U.S. policy and alliances in Asia. There’s a Mil.ru wrapup as well as a transcript on the MCIS site.

Kostyukov criticized not just the U.S. but the Trump administration specifically for using any means, including military ones, to preserve its hegemony in international affairs, and expand its foreign trade and control of world markets.

He sounded quite the Soviet ideologist, or perhaps the ideology hasn’t changed. Does the U.S. really control world markets now?

The GRU admiral said recent U.S. policy documents don’t hesitate to declare that America will rely more on military power to stem international trends it doesn’t like. Its penchant for seeking “peace through strength” leads to military conflict, and:

“This contradicts the views of many states, including the Russian Federation, which will not accept diktat and are for a just world order, equal rights and partnership between countries, the collective search for solutions to ensure security and preserve peace.”

“The Russian Federation is convinced that the only effective means of ensuring regional security is political dialogue and taking each other’s interest into account.”

One supposes Russian actions in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and Syria don’t count. They must have come from a different page of the Kremlin playbook.

Still, there’s no doubt his views resonated with some countries willing to attend MCIS.

But the true intent here is to catch up on the GRU leadership lineup.

The MOD refers to Vice-Admiral Kostyukov as a deputy to GRU Chief General-Colonel Igor Valentinovich Korobov. But Russian press sources often report him as a first deputy.

It’s interesting that the MOD trotted Kostyukov out. The U.S. has sanctioned him for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine and for interference in America’s electoral process. He was a military attaché to Greece as an O-6 in the early 2000s. Otherwise he’s little known. His name didn’t pop as a contender before General-Colonel Korobov became GRU Chief. It’s not even clear when Kostyukov appeared in the GRU leadership.

A similarly sanctioned Russian officer, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Stepanovich Alekseyev, reportedly became a First Deputy Chief of the GRU in 2011. [Only in the Soviet Union and Russian Federation has it been common to have two or three first deputies of this or that.] Commissioned as a VDV officer, Alekseyev served as chief of intelligence for the old Moscow and Far East Military Districts before coming to headquarters to lead the 14th (Spetsnaz) Directorate, according to Moskovskiy komsomolets.

Neither Kostyukov nor Alekseyev was really known prior to U.S. sanctions in late 2016. See Vedomosti for reference.

They weren’t part of the equation as possible successors to the late General-Colonel Sergun in January 2016. At the time, only Korobov, and deputy chiefs Vyacheslav Viktorovich Kondrashov (a general-lieutenant and deputy since 2011) Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov (rank unclear and a deputy since 2015), and Igor Viktorovich Lelin (a general-lieutenant and deputy since 2014) seemed to be contenders.

Information on these three can be found in this old post.

This source notes that Gizunov headed the “operational group” that successfully identified the “Anonymous International” or “Shaltay-Boltay” hackers, including two FSB computer security experts, who stole and published embarrassing documents and emails from Russian government officials. Gizunov’s often listed just as general. The lack of a specific rank raises some questions about his exact status.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s unlikely all GRU deputies have been identified above. 

We have an assortment of deputies and first deputies including officers who served in legal GRU residencies abroad or in troop reconnaissance and Spetsnaz or in cryptography and information security. It seems we’re missing that first deputy for strategic agent intelligence about whom nothing is known publicly. That general who personally controls the operations of the GRU’s illegal residencies and most important agents in foreign countries.

The last three GRU chiefs — Korobov, Sergun, and Shlyakhturov — each served in that capacity. Another turnover is never far away. Korobov looks tired and old, and he’ll turn 62 on August 3.

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Promotion List

A more detailed look at the MOD’s Defender’s Day promotees . . . .

General-Colonel Aleksandr Fomin is in charge of the MOD’s Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation (GU MVS) and the Directorate for Monitoring Treaty Fulfillment (National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center). He was director of FSVTS before coming to the MOD.

General-Lieutenant Lastochkin is Chief of Electronic Warfare for the RF Armed Forces. General-Lieutenant Trishunkin is Deputy CINC of the VKS for Material-Technical Support (MTO). General-Lieutenant Khristoforov is or was a duty general in the RF NTsUO.

Vitaliy Razgonov is chief of the MOD's school for training troop recon officers

Vitaliy Razgonov, chief of the troop recon officer commissioning school

Among the general-majors:

  • Oleg Vladimirovskiy is a deputy chief of the NTsUO.
  • Igor Griban is a deputy commander of VTA.
  • Aleksey Ivanovskiy commands the 93rd Air Defense Division (Vladivostok).
  • Boris Stepa commands the 53rd Air Defense Division (Yelizovo).
  • Andrey Vinogradov is Chief of Engineering Troops, Eastern MD.
  • Vladimir Koposov is Deputy Commander of the Pacific Fleet for MTO.
  • Aleksey Kiyashko is chief of staff of MTO for the Northern Fleet.
  • Dmitriy Yevmenenko is Chief, Tyumen Higher Military-Engineering Command School.
  • Vitaliy Razgonov is Chief, Novosibirsk Higher Military Command School.
  • Boris Novikov is a deputy chief of the Military Academy of Troop Air Defense.
  • Sergey Yegorov is a deputy chief of the Mikhaylovskiy Military Artillery Academy.

The sole flag officer promotee — Rear-Admiral Ivan Dubik — is known as the naval hero of Russia’s five-day war with Georgia in August 2008. He was a captain third rank (LCDR) in command of the BSF’s Mirazh (Nanuchka III-class) missile corvette. It apparently sank a Georgian patrol boat with an SS-N-9 / Siren ASCM. His current posting is unclear.

In all, eight promotees could not be identified in a particular billet at present.

Scanning the Promotion List

RF President Vladimir Putin signed out his latest military promotion list on this eve of Defender of the Fatherland Day.

For the MOD, one general-colonel, four general-lieutenants, and 17 general-majors. Only a single rear-admiral (ouch).

A quick scan follows.

Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Fomin — really a civilian and responsible for military-technical cooperation and arms sales — put on his third star.

Aleksandr Fomin

Aleksandr Fomin

The four new general-lieutenants:  Yuriy Korsachev worked in the General Staff’s Central Command Post as an O-6 just before he got his first star . . . Yuriy Lastochkin is Chief of EW . . . Vladimir Trishunkin is Deputy CINC of Aerospace Forces for Material-Technical Support (MTO, i.e. supply) . . . Igor Khristoforov worked in the GS CCP with Korsachev.

Some of the one-stars:

  • Igor Griban is from VTA;
  • Dmitriy Yevmenenko is chief of the higher military-engineering school in Tyumen;
  • Aleksey Kiyashko served in the Baltic Fleet’s material-support directorate in 2013;
  • Vladimir Koposov was Deputy Commander of the Pacific Fleet for MTO in 2014;
  • Sergey Pobirokhin once commanded the 385th Artillery Brigade based at Totskoye;
  • Vitaliy Razgonov is chief of the Novosibirsk higher military command school, known as the home of troop reconnaissance for the Russian Army;
  • Boris Stepa commands the 53rd Air Defense Division on Kamchatka;
  • Aleksandr Khanov is an armored vehicle service type;
  • Ivan Dubik might be Russia’s “naval hero” of the Five-Day War with Georgia in 2008.

Watch for a deeper look later on . . . .

P.S. The National Guard got 3 two-stars and 11 one-stars this go round.

Promotion List

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin signed out his Constitution Day promotion list on December 12. You can view it here.

The 19 MOD promotees included two three-stars, a two-star, and 16 one-stars.

By comparison, Putin’s National Guard got two three-star, seven two-star, and 15 one-star appointments.

For the MOD, newly-minted General-Colonel Khalil Arslanov heads the General Staff’s Main Communications Directorate.

General-Colonel Arslanov wearing two stars

General-Colonel Arslanov wearing two stars

Also granted his third star, Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov commands the Northern Fleet. He was the sole naval officer promoted on this list.

Nikolay Yevmenov as a vice-admiral

Nikolay Yevmenov as a vice-admiral

Airborne Troops deputy commander Vladimir Kochetkov became a general-lieutenant.

The 16 general-majors include the:

  • Head of the Ground Troops’ Combat Training Directorate;
  • Chief of the VDV’s EW Service;
  • Deputy commander of air and air defense forces in the Central MD;
  • Deputy commander of the Southern MD’s 8th CAA;
  • Chief of Naval Aviation for the BSF;
  • Commander of the 4th Kantemir Tank Division;
  • Chief of Operations, Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Troops, Aerospace Forces;
  • Chief of the Central MD’s EW Service;
  • Commander of the Eastern MD’s 303rd Composite Aviation Division;
  • Chief of air and air defense troops for the Eastern MD staff.

There were four new generals for whom no position could be identified at this time.

Other generals and admirals besides those noted above have been added or updated.

The promotion list file now covers about 450 Russian general and flag officers.

The Dust Has Settled

General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin

General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin

On November 29, Krasnaya zvezda summarized the high command changes in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s November 22 decree. As anticipated, Ground Troops General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin is the new CINC of the Aerospace Forces (VKS). General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev has taken Surovikin’s place as Commander of the Eastern MD. And General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin replaced General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy in the Central MD.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev

Izvestiya called it the largest rotation of top military leaders in the last decade. It continued the Kremlin policy of advancing generals who’ve gotten real experience in command and control of combat actions in Syria.

While Commander of the Eastern MD, General-Colonel Sergey Vladimirovich Surovikin  served temporary duty as Commander of the Russian Group of Troops in Syria from May 2017 to present. KZ reported that Russian forces achieved “maximum success” in Syria under his command.

The 51-year-old VKS CINC was born in Novosibirsk. He is a combined arms officer who commanded the 42nd MRD in Chechnya and 20th CAA.  served as Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff. He served as chief of staff and first deputy commander of the former Volga-Ural (now Central MD) and then of the Eastern MD beginning in late 2012. A year later he was appointed Commander of the Eastern MD.

No one would accuse Surovikin of being an uncontroversial figure. His biography features a number of incidents but nothing seems to stick to him.

As described on these pages in 2011 when he was reportedly considered to head the MOD’s new military police:

Kommersant gave details on Surovikin’s background.  As a captain in August 1991, he was acting commander of the Taman division motorized rifle battalion responsible for the death of three Yeltsin supporters.  He was arrested and investigated for seven months before charges against him were lifted.

As noted on these pages, he commanded the 34th MRD when one his colonels blew his brains out in front of the entire staff after an upbraiding from the commander.  And Surovikin had a very short tenure as Chief of the GOU.

He seems an odd choice to be responsible for the army’s new enforcers of law and order.  To be in charge of those charged with preventing dedovshchina and other barracks violence.

Not noted above is the fact that, as a major in 1995, he almost went to jail for the illegal possession and sale of a hand gun. This earned him one year of probation, and it later disqualified him from heading the MOD’s new military police force.

He always seemed like a strange choice for the head of MPs; it was almost as if someone was trying to sidetrack his career.

General-Colonel Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Zhuravlev moved from his post as a deputy chief of the General Staff to take over the Eastern MD from Surovikin. The tank troops officer was born in Tyumen Oblast in 1965. He commanded Russian forces in Syria in 2016.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Pavlovich Lapin became Commander of the Central MD after serving as chief of staff and first deputy commander to Surovikin in Syria. Also a tank officer, he was born in Kazan in 1964.

Former Central MD Commander, General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy has taken over the Military Academy of the General Staff, a sinecure for senior officers nearing retirement.

KZ reported two new deputy chiefs of the General Staff have been named: Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Alekseyevich Moiseyev previously served as chief of staff and first deputy commander of the Northern Fleet, and General-Major Gennadiy Valeryevich Zhidko commanded the 2nd CAA and served as chief of staff and first deputy commander in Syria.

According to Izvestiya, the Navy also got a new deputy commander for ground and coastal troops General-Lieutenant Oleg Makarevich. The paper claims he’s second only to Surovikin in his “experience and charisma.” The position was made necessary because the land-based components of the navy have grown with army corps added to the fleets. The Navy is looking to Makarevich to smooth out their force structure and combat training, particularly in Kaliningrad and Crimea.

Russia may be drawing down in Syria, but General-Colonel Surovikin was still in charge when President Putin visited the Russian command center a few days ago. So the question is when will Surovikin take up his VKS duties, and who will relieve him in Syria.

Command Rokirovka

Rokirovka (рокировка) appears often in the Russian press. Borrowed from chess, it means castling in the strictest sense. In political and administrative terms, it’s when people shift places in an organization or hierarchy.

The Russian military seems poised for a command rokirovka.

The rokirovka might have begun with General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev’s abrupt departure from the Aerospace Forces (VKS) to accept an appointment to the Federation Council. With over five years as the CINC of Russia’s air forces (and its air defense, missile defense, and space forces now as well), Bondarev is just shy of 58. A three-star, he could have served to age 65.

Senator Bondarev

Senator Bondarev

It’s interesting that he would leave just now. But entering the upper chamber of Russia’s national legislature provides immunity from prosecution.

Observers were confronted then with the surprising prospect that General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin — an army general — might be the leading candidate to replace Bondarev. Others seem like distant challengers at best. But we’re still waiting for the shoe to drop on Surovikin. Bondarev joined the FC on September 19, yet his picture remains on Mil.ru as CINC of VKS.

The complicating factor is that Surovikin’s been away from his permanent post as commander of Russia’s Eastern MD while commanding the Group of Russian Forces in Syria since early summer.

To give the VKS to Surovikin, the Russian MOD will have to settle on new commanders for both posts.

Syria is toughest. Although winding down, Moscow can’t send just anyone. It might send General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev back. He commanded the group for the last part of 2016. Perhaps the original commander — General-Colonel Aleksandr Dvornikov — might return from his post in the Southern MD. Commander of the Central MD General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy could go.

General-Colonel Zhuravlev

General-Colonel Zhuravlev

We can’t say who’ll be picked, but the choice is complicated by Defense Minister Shoygu’s announcement that the endgame has begun. The Kremlin won’t jeopardize its final push there.

A new Eastern MD commander is easier. Here are some possibilities:

General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev…only 52…deputy commander of Central MD…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Central MD…chief of staff, first deputy commander, then briefly commander of the Russian Group of Forces in Syria…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Southern MD…deputy chief of the General Staff.

General-Lieutenant Viktor Astapov…55…VDV officer…commanded a division, then an army…deputy commander of Southern MD…now chief of staff, first deputy commander of Western MD.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Chayko…46…chief of staff, first deputy commander of 20th CAA…commander of resurrected 1st Tank Army…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Eastern MD.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin…53…commander of 20th CAA…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Eastern MD…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Russian Group of Forces in Syria.

General-Lieutenant Mikhail Teplinskiy…48…VDV officer…Hero of Russian Federation in First Chechen War…chief of staff, first deputy commander of 20th CAA…commander of 36th CAA…chief of staff, first deputy commander of Southern MD.

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Ustinov…57…VDV officer…combat veteran of Afghanistan…deputy commander of former Leningrad MD…commander of 6th CAA…deputy commander of Central MD…chief of staff and first deputy commander of Central MD.

No matter who gets the Eastern MD, these generals are worthy of notice. They’ve punched the right tickets, and if they don’t advance now, they will later. But Zhuravlev seems most ready and he has the third star customary for MD commanders. But inside-trackers have a way of getting side-tracked in the Russian military. It could happen to Zhuravlev.

A wild card scenario might be built around 59-year-old General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin. He’s serving as assistant to Shoygu after a long tenure as commander of the Southern MD. It might not be safe to rule him out appearing in Syria or the Eastern MD.

Some generational change could be coming to the top Russian MOD posts typically occupied by army generals. The Chief of the General Staff — Army General Valeriy Gerasimov — has been in place since late 2012. He’s 62.  Ground Troops CINC — General-Colonel Oleg Salyukov — is also 62 this year.

The current MD commanders might really hope for Gerasimov’s job. General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov in the Western MD and General-Colonel Dvornikov in the Southern MD would seem to have the best shot, with the runner-up becoming Ground Troops CINC instead. A little older, General-Colonel Zarudnitskiy in the Central MD could be the odd man out.

Moves by the MD commanders would open spaces for the rising group of mostly two-stars introduced earlier.

The future of the commander of Airborne Troops — General-Colonel Andrey Serdyukov — is a bit uncertain after his car crash last month, even though he’s only 55. If available, his post might be attractive to the three youngish generals with VDV backgrounds highlighted above.

But this entire rokirovka might unravel if General-Colonel Surovikin doesn’t move to the VKS for some reason. Still major command and leadership changes, driven inexorably by the passage of time and aging of the incumbents, are coming to Russia’s military.

New 36th Army Commander

On October 14, Mil.ru announced the appointment of General-Major Mikhail Yakovlevich Nosulev as the new commander of Russia’s 36th Combined Arms Army in Ulan Ude.

General-Major Nosulev

General-Major Nosulev

Born in Labinsk, Krasnodar in 1964, Nosulev was commissioned out of the Ulyanovsk Higher Tank Command School. He served with a Soviet tank army in the GSFG as a junior officer.

Nosulev commanded a regiment of the 42nd MRD during the Second Chechen War, according to BaikalFinans. He was deputy chief of staff of the 58th CAA during Russia’s Five-Day War with Georgia in August 2008. Most recently, he was chief of staff and first deputy commander of the Southern MD’s 49th CAA.

He apparently replaces General-Major Dmitriy Kovalenko who just last month conducted bilateral exercise Selenga-2017 with Mongolian Army units in the Gobi Desert.

Where Kovalenko is headed is anyone’s guess. However, it’s possible he might remain in the Eastern MD and take command of the Ussuriysk-based 5th CAA. Its commander, General-Lieutenant Valeriy Asapov, was killed on September 23 while serving as senior military advisor to the Syrian Army.