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.”
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.