Tag Archives: Main Intelligence Directorate

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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Still Awaiting New GRU Chief

On 13 January, Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov wrote that late GRU Chief General-Colonel Igor Sergun’s successor will be one of the military intelligence directorate’s current deputy chiefs:  Vyacheslav Kondrashov, Sergey Gizunov, Igor Lelin, or Igor Korobov.

General-Lieutenant Vyacheslav Viktorovich Kondrashov reportedly headed a Russian delegation that went to Cairo on an arms sales mission in late 2013.  He is likely a Middle East specialist and Arabic linguist.  He’s an old hand at the GRU headquarters.  It looks like he put on his first star over 20 years ago.  He seems like a timely choice from the GRU’s perspective, but he might not serve much longer.

Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov is probably a computer expert or mathematician from the GRU SIGINT apparatus.  He was chief of the Moscow-based 85th Main Center of Special Service which deciphers foreign military communications.  He’d be an unusual pick for an intelligence service that likes experienced field operators at the top.

General-Major (???) Igor Viktorovich Lelin was Russian military attache to Estonia and served for a time as deputy chief of the Defense Ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate (GUK).  He only returned to the GRU in 2014.  Lelin doesn’t seem to have much to recommend him, at least based on what little is known of his background.

Igor Korobov seems to have no information in the public domain.  Safronov’s sources call him a “serious person” and the most probable candidate to take Sergun’s chair.  Although it’s ironic, one has to agree that the lack of data on Korobov makes it utterly impossible to dismiss him as a strong possibility.

According to Safronov, the GRU bureaucracy feared having an outside chief (from the FSO or SVR) imposed upon it following Sergun’s untimely death from a heart attack in the Moscow suburbs on 3 January.  Speculation focused on one former presidential bodyguard named Aleksey Dyumin who quickly turned up as a deputy minister of defense.  So the worry may have passed.  The Genshtab and Defense Ministry now believe the PA will settle on an insider to keep continuity in this important agency.

Ten days ago an ukaz indicating President Putin’s choice was expected “soon,” but no sign of it yet.

Safronov makes the point that the GRU has been busy because of Russia’s operation in Syria.  Its IMINT and SIGINT systems, not to mention its human agent networks, have been working overtime to support Russian military and political decisionmakers.  The GRU also played a critical part in Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Just as post-script, we’ve seen in the last day the Financial Times report that Sergun visited Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to relay Putin’s request that he consider stepping down.  Of course, the Kremlin denied it, but remember Putin said earlier this month that giving Bashar asylum would be easier than Edward Snowden.

Medvedev Visits GRU Headquarters

General-Major Sergun Welcomes Medvedev and Serdyukov

President Dmitriy Medvedev, accompanied by Defense Minister Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov, paid a visit on GRU headquarters yesterday.

Medvedev came to bestow state awards on GRU officers.  Presidential visits to the home of Russian military intelligence are rare, and usually come in connection with its anniversary (November 5).

So we have to suppose the lame-duck Supreme CINC and possible future prime minister went to the GRU to (a) bolster its newly-appointed chief, General-Major Igor Sergun, and (b) try to boost the morale of a service hard-hit by cuts and reorganizations under Serdyukov’s reforms.  Medvedev’s brief remarks seemed to confirm as much.

According to Kremlin.ru, after giving the GRU obligatory praise, Medvedev told its officers that the world situation is changing and “it requires adjustments not just in intelligence priorities, but also methods . . . .”

He continued:

“Consequently, a reorganization of the entire system of military intelligence has also occurred.  These changes have been introduced.  The results of the recent past show that the GRU is successfully coping with its established missions.  And on the whole military intelligence is performing professionally and effectively.”

“Of course, we need to increase the operational potential of the service, and its information potential, and its analytical potential.”  

Medvedev’s “on the whole” was a recognition of a state of affairs that is something less than fully optimal.  How much we don’t know.  He also seemed to be dealing with an audience more accustomed to, and happier with, operations than analysis.

The president went on to note the GRU’s traditional role in monitoring the global political-military situation, forecasting threats, tracking military-technical and defense industrial developments, and, especially, in counteracting international terrorism.

Kremlin.ru provided this video of Medvedev’s remarks.

Sergun Replaces Shlyakhturov

Press sources report 52-year-old General-Major (one-star) Igor Sergun has replaced General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov as GRU Chief.  Not surprisingly, little is known about Sergun.

Izvestiya reports Shlyakhturov’s departure was in the works for some time, and Sergun took over the job on December 22.  The paper’s Genshtab source says Sergun headed an unidentified GRU directorate prior to relieving his predecessor.  Knowledgable outside observers who spoke with Izvestiya believe Sergun arrives at a difficult time, following reforms and personnel cuts implemented by Shlyakhturov.

While not necessarily a “youth movement,” Sergun’s appointment follows a trend of putting lower-ranking officers and generals in charge of key Defense Ministry and General Staff directorates.

Komsomolskaya’s Viktor Baranets claims Sergun is the first to head the military intelligence agency at such a low rank.

Novyy region added a bit, saying Sergun is 54 (born in 1957) and was a colonel serving as military attache in Albania in 1998, according to press from that time.

The GRU’s Smiling Face

General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov

One would like to get off the GRU topic, but we have to follow the news to some extent.  General-Colonel Shlyakhturov not only spoke in advance of the November 5 military intelligence anniversary, but actually posed for a photo sporting a smile and his third star.

We don’t learn much here.  There are confirmations of what we’d already heard and read recently, or even long ago.  The GRU’s adapted for new missions, but keeps the old ones.  The threat from Georgia is emphasized as in previous years.  Military intelligence still falls under the Genshtab.  Shlyakhturov admits to restructuring and reducing, but insists the GRU’s still a “full-service” intelligence agency.  Spetsnaz has gone to the MDs, but the GRU still has a train and equip role.  Shlyakhturov hints that military intelligence is still very interested in foreign technology.

Interviewed in Rossiyskaya gazeta, the GRU Chief tells the paper how much times have changed, and the military intelligence agency now talks in terms of many-sided and multivector threats, rather than the “probable enemy.”

Shlyakhturov expounds on how terrorists and extremists pose the “greatest danger,” and the GRU monitors the situation in regions, like Georgia, from which this danger may emanate.  He’s quick, however, to deny that Russian special services have engaged in any subversive activity whatsoever against sovereign Georgia.  But, he says, the GRU will provide timely warning to the country’s military-political leadership if Tbilisi prepares “new military provocations against Russia and its regional allies.”  Changing tack, Shlyakhturov stresses that the GRU puts great stock in cooperating with special services of other countries to get threat information.

The GRU Chief says the agency is focused on “new” issues like economics, natural resources, and nuclear proliferation.  But it hasn’t lost focus on the disposition of foreign armies and armaments in different theaters of military operations and other issues that affect the employment and development of Russia’s Armed Forces.

Asked about reporting to the president, Shlyakhturov emphasizes that, as always, the GRU reports directly to the Defense Minister and Genshtab.  But the GRU’s most important documents still reach the president, prime minister, and Security Council, and influence Russia’s foreign and defense policies.

Shlyakhturov says the GRU has redistributed its efforts to focus on regions posing a threat to Russia’s interests and security, “hot spots” where terrorists and extremists operate, and crisis zones where international stability is threatened.

The GRU Chief admits there has been a reorganization and reduction in his agency.  As he puts it:

“Here’s the main thing you need to understand:   the changed world situation objectively required adjustments in intelligence priorities and their implementation mechanism.”

He notes, however, that the GRU still has operational, technical, information-analytical, and support sub-units as well as what he claims is a very spartan central apparatus, or headquarters staff.

Spetsnaz has, Shlyakhturov admits, gone to the MDs, fleets, and VDV, but he says they’re still part of operational intelligence, and the GRU provides their doctrine, training, and equipment.

Finally, he says the GRU remains interested in foreign technology developments, and its work here supports R&D efforts, the OPK, and the state program of armaments.

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.

“Moor” GRU Changes

GRU Headquarters

Yesterday we got diametrically opposed views of the GRU.  Argumenty nedeli  argues the situation inside the GRU is a mess.  Rossiyskaya gazeta, however, defends the GRU’s exiting chief, General-Colonel Shlyakhturov and the reforms made in Russia’s military intelligence agency.

Argumenty writes that the Main Intelligence Directorate is being “optimized” into a simple directorate, and this is evidence that Russian military intelligence simply no longer exists.  To news about Shlyakhturov’s departure, the paper says GRU officers have Schiller’s reaction:  “The Moor has done his work, the Moor can leave.”  

A GRU officer tells Argumenty that the agent operations staff has been completely destroyed, and information “extraction” tasks are no longer levied.  “Radiotechnical” [SIGINT] and space reconnaissance sub-units that remain now take orders from more important armed services and branches.  Central staff and analytical sub-units have been cut to the minimum.  This month the General Staff Chief directed the GRU to dismiss personnel on age grounds where possible [maybe Shlyakhturov included], and rotate others to the military districts. 

And, the officer says, it’s been announced that in the next round of reforms in 2012 the GRU will become a simple directorate [rather than a main directorate] of the Genshtab, and relocate to the Genshtab building on the Arbat.  

President Putin Visiting the New GRU Headquarters in 2006

The officer tells Argumenty only rear support and cleaners will remain, and any of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s former tax inspectorate chiefs can manage them.  He says the majority of “the boys” actually prefer this turn of events, and have already found jobs in the civilian world.  He adds that the new GRU building on Khodynka will be sold, and it’s important not to leave secure comms and secret documents behind.  There were precedents for that, the officer joked bitterly.

If this officer’s version pans out, you can bet the GRU complex, and the Moscow real estate it sits on, will fetch a high price for the controllers of Defense Ministry coffers.

RG offers a more positive spin on what’s happening in the GRU.  Firstly, it says there’s no intrigue in Shlyakhturov’s exit.  It’s simply on age grounds.  The paper says the soon-to-be ex-GRU chief was well-respected, and implemented the reforms required of him. 

The fact is, it contends, the agency managed to avoid most of the changes that shook the rest of the country and Armed Forces in the past two decades.  It was organized in same way as when it was established in Soviet times [i.e. it was organized for the Cold War and World War III], and was naturally somewhat out-of-step with the state’s new “social-political structure” and needed to be changed.  And Shlyakhturov implemented changes that other chiefs [i.e. there was only one–Korabelnikov] couldn’t.

Instead of more than 100 GRU generals, according to RG, there are now only 20.  Spetsnaz brigades were cut and given over to Ground Troops reconnaissance.  And there were other changes either secret or understandable only to professionals [so much for civilian control].

Not all the transformations were palatable, RG writes:

“But the majority of cadre military intelligence men are sure that Aleksandr Vasilyevich conducted a completely unavoidable reform in the softest and most optimal form.  No one would have coped better with this mission than him.

RG indicates Shlyakhturov is in good health, and will likely take a post in a big business or serve as an advisor to the Defense Minister.

For good measure, the paper concludes:

“Intelligence men are sure that a competent reform of the Genshtab’s Main Directorate will be only beneficial, giving the GRU more mobility, and providing technical intelligence monitoring systems with the most modern equipment.”

All in all, it seems quite an apology for Shlyakhturov and the state of the GRU.