Category Archives: Military Leadership

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.

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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.

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.

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.