Tag Archives: FSB

GRU Rumors

Moskovskiy komsomolets reported some rumors about the GRU yesterday.  But one may or may not want to put stock in them. 

MK reports that the country’s leadership is still working over a candidate for chief of the GRU.  General-Colonel Shlyakhturov’s request for retirement was given a month ago, and the president has signed it.  But MK claims the issue of GRU reform is also being decided.

The media’s widely reported that the retiring Shlyakhturov will become Chairman of the Board of the Defense Ministry’s Oboronservis corporation, which is consolidating, civilianizing, and outsourcing most of the military’s logistics and support services.  More recently, it’s been said he’ll occupy the same position with Russia’s lead ballistic missile design bureau, MIT.

MK claims Shlyakhturov isn’t retiring for failing to fulfill his mission, or for disputes with the leadership, or for age reasons (since he was already too old), or for poor health.  According to the paper’s Genshtab source, it’s because a reform awaits the GRU.

MK’s source reports there’s a plan to unify the GRU and SVR into one powerful intelligence center.  The GRU would be cut down to just an intelligence directorate with Russia’s military attaches and intelligence posts around the country, etc.

MK also reports a key appointment.  One general Vladimir Stepanovich Alekseyev has reportedly become First Deputy Chief of the GRU.  He was chief of intelligence for the former Moscow MD, then for the Far East MD.  He returned to Moscow to be chief of the GRU’s 14th Directorate (Spetsnaz), according to MK’s GRU source.  The paper says he could be chief of the GRU in the future.  Alekseyev is from GRU operational agent intelligence inside Russia and the “near abroad.”  Shlyakhturov was from strategic agent intelligence, that is, spies and operations in the “far abroad.”

OK, some of the odd stuff here . . . for one, there’s already been reform in the GRU, so wouldn’t this be more reform, or more radical reform?  MK makes the good point that it’s not clear why Shlyakhturov’s retiring — he’s been too old for a long time, so why now?  Maybe it is a much bigger restructuring that eliminates the “G” in GRU.  There’s long been talk of merging GRU and SVR, but the paper strangely refers to SVR being formally within the FSB’s structure (?!).  Now about Alekseyev . . . perhaps he’s the guy who would head an RU focused on Russia’s strategic approaches and the CIS (i.e. military opintel), while the GRU’s remaining “far abroad” assets chop to the SVR.  This makes some sense since RU-type work and opintel seems to be where the GRU failed in Georgia.  And then SVR gets swallowed by an even bigger fish, the FSB, in a grand reanimation of the KGB for Putin’s third presidential term.  But, as said at the top, one may not want to see too much in all this.

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The GRU and Other Siloviki

Yesterday a couple articles proved too interesting to pass up.  The first continued the theme of reorganization and reform in the GRU.  The second discussed generational change in the siloviki, and the GRU’s and the army’s place within the state security elite.

Stoletie.ru published an item on the “sad” reform of the GRU.  The article relays a couple lesser known stories of GRU history.  It covers most of the familiar story on General-Colonel Shlyakhturov [some lifted verbatim from elsewhere], but it includes a couple new details.

The author, Sergey Serov (ironically, same surname as the Beria henchman who headed the KGB, then the GRU before losing his post in the wake of the Penkovskiy case), claims with some merit:

“By the end of the 1980s, the GRU objectively had become the largest intelligence service in the world and one of the best informed.”

“But surprisingly, at the same time, it didn’t formally and doesn’t appear as a special service.  The Main Intelligence Directorate was and remains a purely army element, to which laws on special services don’t apply.  And the most outstanding GRU officer is less protected on a legal and social plane than a conscript serving in the FSB or SVR.”

“According to the current TO&E, the duty of director of the world’s largest intelligence service is a general-colonel.  And the Foreign Intelligence Service Director’s first deputies are also general-colonels.  Don’t even talk about pay, it’s not equivalent.  Also, agents like Anna Chapman in military intelligence, in contrast to foreign intelligence, have never been and could never be detected.  The GRU grew and got stronger in the years of global confrontation when large military actions by the USSR Armed Forces could have happened, and sometimes did, any place on Earth.”

“Why does a country which doesn’t have global interests requiring a military defense have the world’s largest military intelligence?  The question, sadly, sounds rhetorical today.”

“The reduction of the GRU’s intelligence and combat potential began even before General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov.  As veterans of this intelligence service say, practically all foreign residencies were mothballed or completely eliminated, except those working in countries adjacent to Russia.  Really, why have an intelligence network in Latin America, Africa or Southeast Asia, if our country isn’t planning any kind of military action there even in the distant future?  For lack of need and with economizing in mind, they eliminated the largest intelligence center at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh.”

“But if you sort it out calmly, then it’s clear that Spetsnaz objectively became “a fifth wheel on the wagon” of the Main Intelligence Directorate.  And sending it under a foreign directorate had become unavoidable.  The problem is the fact that the Ground Troops, themselves being cut and reformed absolutely thoughtlessly, turned out unready to accept the Spetsnaz brigades, and now don’t know what to do with them.  So the future fate of Spetsnaz still has not been determined.”

“Today many assess the GRU reforms as the very destruction of an intelligence service.  I can’t believe the changes occurring fully correspond to Russia’s new foreign policy priorities.  If there are only friends around us now, how is it possible to suspect them of plots?”

Andrey Soldatov published the second article in Yezhednevnyy zhurnal

Soldatov contends a serious rift between the FSB’s generals and its rank-and-file officers developed over the rewards of service in the 2000s.  The former ensured riches for themselves, leaving the latter and those not serving in Moscow out in the cold.

More significantly for our purposes, Soldatov talks about serious divisions between Russia’s special services:

“In its turn, relations between the army and the FSB were decisively spoiled when the FSB was ordered to reinforce control over the army situation (the new Kvachkov affair, apparently, became one of the results).  In response, people close to Serdyukov started to become openly indignant at the special service’s interference in the affairs of the Armed Forces, and the idea of establishing a military internal investigations service which could replace osobisty in the units was given voice.”

So, Soldatov seems to ask, what does once-and-future President Putin do in his third term and beyond now that the siloviki, the security service chiefs he’s relied on, are near or over 60 and ready for retirement:

“Nikolay Patrushev, head of the Security Council, was born in 1951, FSO Director Yevgeniy Murov in 1945, Mikhail Fradkov (SVR) in 1950, Aleksandr Shlyakhturov (GRU) a 1947 birth, Aleksandr Tsarenko (GUSP) born in 1948, Viktor Ivanov, head of the FSKN in 1950 and, finally, Aleksandr Bortnikov, FSB Director, in November of this year will be 60.”

Soldatov suggests soon-to-be former President Medvedev knew someone like Shlyakhturov, and possibly other siloviki chiefs, would be willing to make unpopular cuts and reforms in his own fiefdom in return for a guarantee of a few extra years of service.

Soldatov’s point is to remind readers (once again) that the siloviki are far from monolithic.  They are divided along agency lines and within agencies.  Their biggest fights are among themselves.  But Soldatov also finishes with a warning that the mid-level siloviki are so passive, so resigned to their fate, that this could be dangerous when the country faces a real crisis.

Tsentr-2011

Tsentr-2011

Yesterday Russia and allied military forces in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO or ODKB) began a series of exercise events which will run until the beginning of October.

Operational-strategic exercise Tsentr-2011 will involve Russian forces and Belorussian, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Armenian sub-units in different training scenarios focused on ensuring security on the Central Asian axis, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta.

Twelve thousand personnel, 50 aircraft, 1,000 vehicles and other equipment, and ten combat and support ships will participate under the direction of Russian General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, according to Mil.ru.  Russian forces will include one army brigade as well as operational groups from other militarized agencies — the MVD, FSB, FSO, and MChS.    

Mil.ru said the exercise theme is “Preparation and Employment of Inter-Service Troop (Force) Groupings in the Stabilization of a Situation and Conduct of Military Actions on the Central Asian Strategic Axis.”

NG cites Makarov who said the exercise will focus on “localizing internal as well as external conflicts.” Extrapolating from his earlier comments about North Africa and the Middle East, the paper claims he wants the army to be ready to perform internal police functions like the Syrian Army.

Mil.ru puts it more technically saying the exercise will improve command and staff skills in controlling troops in the transition to wartime, in planning special operations, and in organizing long-distance troop regroupings.  Exercise phases will include special operations to localize an armed conflict in a crisis region, and joint actions by ground and naval force groupings, according to the Defense Ministry website.

The exercise will consist of different evolutions, with different partners, in various locations:

  • The Ground Troops, MVD, and FSB Spetsnaz, writes NG, will practice liberating a town from terrorists and rebels on the Chebarkul training range. 
  • At Gorokhovets, Russia’s 20th Army and Belorussian forces are playing a series of tactical actions against enemy airborne assaults, specops, and “illegal armed formations” in their rear areas [under a separate exercise called Union Shield-2011 or Shchit Soyuza-2011]. 
  • Russian forces are training with Kazakhs on the Caspian, and at Kazakhstan’s Oymasha range.
  • A command-staff exercise of the ODKB’s Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (KSOR) will be conducted at the Lyaur range in Tajikistan.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, the ODKB’s Central Asian Region Collective Rapid Deployment Forces (KSBR TsAR) will conduct a tactical exercise against “illegal armed formations.”

NG sums Tsentr-2011 up with a quote from Vladimir Popov:

“The Russian leadership, although late, has come to the conclusion that the successful resolution of military security issues, including the internal security of allied countries, is possible only through the creation and use of coalition troop groupings in the post-Soviet space.   This is correct, and there’s no need to fear this.”

Developing some collective military intervention capability doesn’t answer questions about real-world conditions where it might be employed.  The questions proceed mainly (but not entirely) from Kyrgyzstan’s experience.  First, will a threatened regime ask for ODKB assistance and under what circumstances?  Second, will the alliance or any allies answer a member-state’s call?  Training and exercises are good, but ultimately not much use unless such political issues are resolved.

Serdyukov’s New First Deputy

Aleksandr Sukhorukov

As rumored in mid-summer, President Medvedev announced today former KGB and FSB officer Aleksandr Sukhorukov, most recently Director of the Federal Service for the Defense Order (Rosoboronzakaz), will be First Deputy Minister of Defense.

According to ITAR-TASS, Defense Minister Serdyukov introduced the 55-year-old Sukhorukov during a working meeting with Medvedev in Stavropol.

Medvedev and Serdyukov noted Sukhorukov will be responsible for arms procurement and the beleaguered state defense order.

He’ll be sitting in the hot seat right away.  Medvedev told him:

“. . . this is a very delicate process:  on one side, you need to understand the realm of the Armed Forces, the field of modern military technology, on the other, you need to build relationships with suppliers correctly.  But it’s not always simple to do, the current history of concluding contracts shows this.” 

RIA Novosti elaborated:

“Last night, RF Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s deadline for concluding all Gosoboronzakaz-2011 contracts expired.  On Thursday, the media reported that this task was not completed.”

Sukhorukov takes the post vacated by Vladimir Popovkin, who took over the Russian space agency Roskosmos.

Sukhorukov was with Serdyukov at the Federal Tax Service.  He followed the Serdyukov team to the Defense Ministry, becoming Deputy Director of Rosoboronzakaz in mid-2008, and Director a year later.  But he kept a low public profile at that agency.

He was born November 11, 1955 in Kasli, Chelyabinsk Oblast.  He graduated from the Chelyabinsk Higher Tank Command School in 1977, and later a KGB Higher School.  He apparently worked for the KGB in the Armed Forces, retiring as an FSB lieutenant colonel in 1996.   

From 1996 to 2004, he was deputy director, then director for the Finance Ministry’s northwest regional center for hard currency and export control.  He was a deputy director and director of a territorial directorate (probably northwest again) of the Federal Service for Finance-Budget Oversight in 2004-2006. 

In 2006-2007, he worked for then-Federal Tax Service Director Anatoliy Serdyukov as Chief of the Organizational-Inspectors Directorate.

In 2007, Sukhorukov followed Serdyukov to the Defense Ministry as an advisor.  He became Chief (not surprisingly) of its Organizational-Inspectors Directorate.  Serdyukov made reference to this directorate in his 2010 year-ender when he described how he checks on implementation of his policies. 

But, in late 2007, Sukhorukov jumped ship to the government, becoming assistant to then-Prime Minister (and Serdyukov’s father-in-law) Viktor Zubkov, and then Director, Department for Control and Verification of Fulfillment of RF Government Decisions.

In mid-2008, he arrived at Rosoboronzakaz.

You can find bio data here, here, and here.

In the Russian context, Sukhorukov seems like someone who knows how to find out if people are getting things done, and presumably what to do to them if they’re not (shoot them, send them to work in the fresh air, or fire them).  He seems very much a Putin man, an archetypal silovik.

He doesn’t, however, seem like someone who can help people figure out how to get things done.  Perhaps the Defense Ministry could have used someone with not just investigative, accounting, or legal experience, but maybe with an engineering, industrial, scientific, or technical background in the OPK.

It’d be interesting to know what Sukhorukov did in the army / KGB / FSB . . . he might have been a run-of-the-mill osobist, a “special section” guy monitoring some unit’s reliability and loyalty, or helping secure its secrets.  But he might have served in a defense plant, or been detailed to work in anti-corruption efforts.

Lipetsk Scandal Update

Let’s update the action.

It’s rare when a single incident like Lipetsk is deemed serious enough to warrant a quick public response.  But that’s what’s happening.

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov has ordered checks for corruption in large formations, formations, and units [i.e. army-level down].  His press-service says they’ll look specifically for premium pay kickback schemes.  And servicemen and their families are urged to fill out electronic complaint forms on Mil.ru if they know about extortion rackets.  They don’t need to observe the chain of command either.

Newsru.com has a good recap.  VVS Deputy CINC, General-Major Bondarev has confirmed the existence of a kickback scheme at Lipetsk.  But he also called Sulim and others cowards for not refusing to pay.  He also denied putting any pressure on the men.

As Newsru notes, MK has audio of Bondarev indicating otherwise.  Talking to Sulim, Bondarev claims he’s just angry he wasn’t promoted, his father illegally got him into the elite Lipetsk unit, and warns him that his fellow servicemen will kill him when they lose their premium pay.  The tape also showed that Sulim only wants to resign because of the corruption, not for personal reasons, as Bondarev claims. 

In fact, Sulim hopes to continue serving.

Gazeta.ru focused on Bondarev’s comment that it’s possible violations at Lipetsk are administrative rather than criminal [which would make Kovalskiy no more guilty than Smirnov or Sulim].  Bondarev claims Major Kubarev retracted his support for Sulim [Kubarev’s also being reported as Kubyrev].

Gazeta then talked to Sulim, who points out Bondarev only investigated in the 3rd squadron, not in the 1st or 4th squadrons, because the leadership is trying to limit the damage, and to make it look like it’s one squadron’s problem, and not a base-wide scheme.

You can see Bondarev’s own words in his 24 May interview with Ekho moskvy.

The RVSN actually moved out on this scandal before the Defense Ministry:

“Taking into account the recent events in one of the RF Defense Ministry’s units,  connected with the illegal collection of money from servicemen, and to preclude the occurrence of similar situations in RVSN units, RVSN Commander, General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev has decided to establish permanently functioning commissions in every missile army to prevent similar legal violations.”

The press release said commissions will conduct anonymous surveys of officers and their families, and also look for this during inspections.  But there might already be a lot of work to do.

Look at the impassioned comment a retired RVSN lieutenant colonel left on the webpage for Olga Bozhyeva’s interview with Sulim and Smirnov:

“Such kickbacks go on THROUGHOUT Russia’s VS [Armed Forces]!!  It would be possible to jail ALL commanders of ALL units in Russia in good conscience!!”

“I live in the military town of an RVSN division.  Many of my acquaintances are still serving.  Previously they included ONLY SELECTED ‘RELIABLE’ officers in the order for the annual receipt of this mad money (extra MONTHLY pay up to 160-200 thousand rubles!!!) — but not more than 30% of the unit’s officers.  EVERYONE knows that they collect ‘tribute’ from this money paid according to MO RF Order № 400:  and who gets it, and who doesn’t, and their wives, and the osobisty (FSB), and the prosecutors, and even conscript soldiers [know who gets it]!!  And such corruption arranges EVERYTHING — it’s clear that both prosecutors and osobisty get it!  And it also arranges the officers who give the most ‘tribute’ — refuse to pay, they find a reason and deprive you of this mad, undeserved money!!!”

“Of course there’s hostility among officers, and their wives because of the payment of this money!  You bet!  Of two similar officers fulfilling similar duties, one gets SEVERAL TIMES more!!  Not 2, 3, 5, 10, or 20 thousand rubles a months more, but several times more!!!  Meanwhile, it’s usually not the best, but the ‘reliable’ one who will ‘kickback’ money without a fuss!!”

“THIS UNDERMINES ALL FOUNDATIONS of the Russian Army and its COMBAT READINESS!!  ONLY AN ENEMY OF RUSSIA could think up such a thing!!”

Defense Ministry Reversal on Spetsnaz

The latest painful walk back started this week on the issue of returning just-moved Spetsnaz brigades from the Ground Troops to the General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), at least presumably. 

This is not a done deal, and it’s certainly not entirely clear Spetsnaz will go back to the GRU.  The special operations men might go back to the General Staff in some form separate and distinct from the GRU, and answering directly to the Genshtab.

Spetsnaz weren’t gone long enough for anyone to decide that giving them to the Ground Troops and MD / OSK commanders wasn’t a good idea in a military sense.  No, this sudden shift is most likely the product of bureaucratic and political infighting.  And it seems like a blow to those close to the Defense Minister, and, to some extent, to Anatoliy Serdyukov himself.

In all this, one recalls past rumors about carving up the GRU.  The FSB and SVR wanted its agent operations.  And the FSB and Ground Troops wanted its Spetsnaz as part of a large, unified special operations force.  Kvachkov and Popovskikh called for Spetsnaz to be its own separate service branch.

At any rate, the story’s details . . .

On Tuesday, Moskovskiy komsomolets reported that the Defense Ministry intends to return Spetsnaz brigades to Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) control just several months after giving them to the Ground Troops.  The idea of giving them to the army was recognized as a failure, according to the paper.

Spetsnaz officers at the time said it was a crazy idea that wouldn’t bring any positive results.  Just exactly whose concept it was is unknown to the public, but, according to MK, former Ground Troops Glavkom Army General Vladimir Boldyrev lobbied for the change to shore up his position after the five-day war with Georgia, and then-GRU Chief Valentin Korabelnikov wasn’t able to defend his Spetsnaz, and had to give them up.

MK implies the GRU focused on preserving its strategic intelligence operations [i.e. agent networks], and even leaders of its Spetsnaz directorate changed over to agent operations.  The “Senezh” Spetsnaz training center was taken from the GRU and subordinated to the General Staff.  According to MK, the Genshtab appointed former FSB Group A General Medoyev to head “Senezh.”  He was replaced within weeks by General Aleksandr Miroshnichenko, also a Group A or “Alpha” veteran. 

Your present author notes Medoyev’s replacement by Miroshnichenko was published in the presidential decree on military personnel from 26 October.  Medoyev was relieved and dismissed from the service by a decree from 1 October.  Both men were listed only as “assistant to the Defense Minister.”

A Genshtab source tells MK:

“The plan to transfer army Spetsnaz to the ground pounders was recognized as a failure.  For a year, no one managed them [the Spetsnaz], they left everything hanging.  Now on General Staff Chief Makarov’s desk there’s a document on their resubordination [to whom?].  It’s true it still isn’t signed.”

The same GRU Spetsnaz leaders who gave their brigades to the ground pounders are seeking a place in the new Spetsnaz leadership.  One can only imagine what the structure will become with these men participating in it.  A GRU source tells MK:

“Take, for example, General Russkov, whose service term expired long ago, he’s 57, but still in the ranks.  And, probably, not because he’s an outstanding military man.  How many promising young guys did they dismiss, but such “dinosaurs” are still serving.  And he’s the very one who provided the rationale for the intelligence directorate not needing Spetsnaz.  After all our brigades were resubordinated, he became an agent operator.  And his deputies and assistants, Colonels Mertvishchev, Shpilchin, and Sobol, who didn’t do anything to keep Spetsnaz in the GRU structure, are actively vying for the leadership of the new Genshtab structure which is being established.”

Argumenty nedeli’s less-nuanced version of the story followed MK’sArgumenty claims sending Spetsnaz back to the GRU will correct one of the biggest mistakes made by the Defense Ministry’s team of “effective managers.”  Its Genshtab source says the GRU might form a Special Operations Directorate [of course, the Genshtab might form its own instead].  The decision on moving Spetsnaz was made “at the very top,” and it weakens the position of Ground Troops Glavkom General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov.  Argumenty finishes its somewhat rambling version of the story by saying ex-FSB men – specifically “Senezh” Chief Miroshnichenko – will control the army Spetsnaz.

Would the Army Oppose Siloviki Loyal to Putin?

Medvedev and Putin (photo: Reuters)

An unnamed FSB veteran thinks it would.

Monday New Times published a piece on the state of the tandem and political prospects over the next year leading up to the elections which will determine who will be Russia’s president until 2018.

The article’s authors ask whether Medvedev and Putin, frightened by North African events, might be determined to preserve the status quo by any means.  Or perhaps the president and prime minister face an inevitable clash.  The authors have consulted unnamed experts and present their findings.  Scenario No. 2 is Apocalypse Tomorrow.  The mood of the siloviki – in this case, rank-and-file men with uniforms, ranks, and guns – is key to Scenario No. 2 – the tandem blown up.  The authors ask “how would the siloviki conduct themselves if Medvedev decided to fire the premier and his entire government?  On whom would the experts bet?”

The authors asked former USSR intelligence and special service veterans of coup d’etats to sketch out what we’d see in the event of Apocalypse Tomorrow.  They sketch out some of the things Putin and the government would do in addition to calling for the support of the siloviki.

In the end, the article examines the possibility that Putin might agree to go, with the right personal and financial guarantees in place.  His situation is not, after all, exactly like Mubarak’s or Qaddafi’s.

The article ends like this:

“’Putin can hardly count on the silovik bloc if the matter gets to mass bloodshed,’ even a highly placed employee of the FSB’s Spetsnaz Center, which today joins in its structure Directorate A (formerly Group A) and Directorate V (formerly Group Vympel).  ‘His sole full-blooded reserve capable of entering the fray is the Internal Troops [VV], and mainly the VV Spetsnaz’ – the so-called maroon berets.  ‘They are the ones in 1993, after one of the Vympel groups refused to participate in suppressing the civilian population, who fulfilled the given mission’ (this means preventing the storming of the Ostankino television center – New Times).  ‘As far as the FSB Spetsnaz goes, after so many years of ‘reforming’ silovik sub-units, officers will scarcely be zealous in putting down civilians.  Quite the opposite.  It wasn’t for this that they risked their lives in the Caucasus.’  The weakest link, in the opinion of the same expert, is the army:  ‘Among the troops there’s a lot of negative information and dissatisfaction with the reforms that are being introduced.  Promises that a lieutenant will soon receive 50 thousand rubles just remain promises, the apartment issue isn’t resolved.  After the mass dismissal of officers – just in the past year 140 thousand completely young ‘reservists’ were put out in the streets – they will easily return to the ranks [i.e. Serdyukov’s reversal increasing the officer ranks by 70,000], but now they know who their enemy is.  Plus the disbanding of the GRU Spetsnaz.  As a result, the opposition will have something to oppose the Internal Troops.  So the generals will think a thousand times before giving the order to open fire, and if there is the slightest suspicion about the illegitimacy of the mission received, they’ll do everything to sabotage it.’”

“The experts polled by New Times come together on one thing:  a bloody scenario has a greater than 50% probability in one case:  if the premier and his closest silovik circle seriously fear for their lives and property and don’t get a security guarantee.  And now before their eyes there’s even a living example:  going peacefully into retirement Mubarak has a chance to preserve part of his billions frozen in Switzerland, Qaddafi shooting at his own people no longer has such a chance.”

Interesting scenarios, but there are a couple things your present author isn’t so sure about.  Firstly, two things not factored in that could be significant are:  the mood of the average militiaman [i.e. cop] who are very numerous and are also being ‘reformed,’ and the unhappiness among military retirees and older vets demonstrated recently in their Moscow assembly and last year on Poklonnaya gora.  One’s not sure, though, if they’re more supportive of Medvedev or Putin.  Given the choice, they’d probably shoot both.  Secondly, is Medvedev really the type to enter that kind of standoff (or any standoff actually) while holding very few, if any, good cards to play?  At the same time, one is cautious about assuming rational actors.  It’s perfectly conceivable the Russians could blunder and miscalculate their way into Apocalypse Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Ancentr.ru was following a similar tack earlier this week . . . it looked at the recent personnel decisions regarding General-Lieutenant Valeriy Yevnevich which moved him from the GUBP to Deputy Chief of the General Staff and then to Assistant to the Defense Minister (ostensibly, to advise on peacekeeping activities).  The website thinks this interesting since Yevnevich is a ‘political’ general who as Taman division commander supported President Yeltsin in the 1993 battle with his opponents.  And, it says, such a decisive and staunch supporter of ‘democracy’ as Yevnevich could be useful to vlasti in a responsible post given the general growth in political tension in society, including also a “rise in disloyalty in the army.”  For example, he could command special VDV or other sub-units in an emergency to ensure their loyalty to the regime.  Ancentr.ru goes on to detail other reports from NVO’s Vladimir Mukhin about the level of discontent in the army’s ranks as well as ex-General Staff Chief and Security Council staff member Yuriy Baluyevskiy’s possible role as leader of a military backlash against Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.