Tag Archives: Sergey Surovikin

Future NGSh on the Horizon?

Has a future Chief of the General Staff (NGSh or НГШ) appeared on the Russian military leadership horizon? Is it Aleksandr Zhuravlev?

RF President Vladimir Putin appointed General-Colonel Zhuravlev (zhu-rav-LYOV) Commander of the Western MD sometime prior to November 10. For more than a year, he’s been a rapidly rising star of the Russian Army.

Zhuravlev shaking hands with Putin in 2017

Zhuravlev shaking hands with Putin in 2017

Zhuravlev replaced General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov who became Deputy Minister of Defense and Chief of the Main Military-Political Directorate of the RF Armed Forces back in mid-summer.

Putin made General-Colonel Zhuravlev a Hero of the Russian Federation for commanding Russian forces in Syria in 2017 (he was also previously chief of staff in Syria). He served a stint as a deputy chief of the General Staff. He also briefly commanded the Eastern MD and led its troops during Vostok-2018. Those “strategic maneuvers” likely delayed his appointment to the Western MD.

Born in Tyumen oblast on December 2, 1965, Zhuravlev’s not quite 53. He graduated from the Chelyabinsk Higher Tank Command School in 1986. He served in the USSR’s Central Group of Forces (Czechoslovakia) for about eight years before returning to mid-career training at the Military Academy of Armored Troops.

In 1996, he was posted to the Far Eastern MD where he was a tank regiment and motorized rifle division commander.

He completed his senior training at the Military Academy of the General Staff in 2008. Upon graduation, he became Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the 58th CAA in the North Caucasus (now Southern) MD.

In 2010, Putin appointed him to command the 2nd CAA in the Volga-Ural (now Central) MD. He became Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Central MD in early 2015. That posting led to Zhuravlev’s duty in Syria. The Central MD has been responsible for Russian operations in Syria.

Zhuravlev was chief of staff for Russia’s forces from the start. He commanded them during the second half of 2016 and for most of 2018. He basically never got settled in the Eastern MD before being moved to the Western.

General-Colonel Zhuravlev looks like he’s checked all boxes to become Chief of the General Staff at some point. A Hero of the Russian Federation . . . command of forces in combat . . . command of MDs . . . chief of staff assignments in Syria, Central MD, 58th CAA. Perhaps all he needs to spend a couple years actually commanding the Western MD.

But what of the current NGSh Army General Valeriy Gerasimov? He just turned 63. By statute, he can serve until he’s 65, but there are cases where general officers serve beyond established limits. A lot could depend on how long Putin intends for Sergey Shoygu to be Minister of Defense. Shoygu picked Gerasimov right away to replace his predecessor’s NGSh — Nikolay Makarov — in 2012. It’s hard to say when Gerasimov might go.

The current list of Russian three-star officers has less than 20 men. General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin is Zhuravlev’s most obvious competition. But is he a stronger candidate now that he’s getting the unusual chance to command Russia’s air forces, or was he shunted aside?

Among the others, at least five are specialists lacking experience commanding large-scale ground forces. Two are career staff officers without recent command experience. About six are so close in age to Gerasimov that they don’t really make sense.

Soon to be 57, Airborne Troops Commander Andrey Serdyukov is a possibility but he never commanded an MD. He was, however, Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD, and slated to command in Syria in late 2017 when a serious car accident derailed that plan. Andrey Kartapolov seems sidelined with Russia’s resurrected political officers, but he’s only 55, so it might be early to count him out. Similarly, Aleksandr Dvornikov is 57, was the first commander of Russia’s troops in Syria, is a Hero of the Russian Federation, and currently commands the Southern MD.

There are younger rising stars but, as general-lieutenants, most haven’t yet held a large command. But two are new MD commanders — Aleksandr Lapin in the Central and now Gennadiy Zhidko in the Eastern. At 53, Zhidko was a chief of staff in Syria, served a year as a deputy chief of the General Staff, and is a Hero of the RF. Lapin and Zhidko will probably get their third stars in December.

From what we can tell externally, it doesn’t appear NGSh Valeriy Gerasimov is going anywhere soon. But a change in the MOD’s top uniformed officer will probably happen overnight and take us by surprise. When it does, General-Colonel Zhuravlev might be best positioned to succeed him.

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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.

Sidorov, Surovikin, Etc.

Krasnaya zvezda covers a couple cadre changes . . . Admiral Maksimov retires out of the Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander spot in the Western MD.  General-Lieutenant Anatoliy Sidorov from the analogous Eastern MD post assumes Maksimov’s position.  Notorious General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin, once reported to be chief of Russia’s military police, takes over for Sidorov in the Eastern MD.

More on the Retiring General Troyka

In yesterday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Sergey Konovalov followed up the story of the retiring generals — Andrey Tretyak, Sergey Skokov, and Oleg Ivanov.

Konovalov held to the main line of his earlier report.  He maintains the retirement of these Defense Ministry central apparatus officers has been “frozen.”  Without addressing the various explanations and denials in the media, he asks why three promising generals would want out early.  Finally, he repeats his earlier contention that the resignations could be a sign of “military opposition” to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.

Konovalov cites a highly-placed Defense Ministry source saying:

“Soon representatives of the Presidential Administration’s cadre organs will talk with the generals who requested discharge to find out the real reasons why young, promising leaders are retiring from the army.”

A law enforcement source tells NG that the Main Military Prosecutor has long questioned the Defense Ministry’s cadre policy:

“Competent officers are dismissed, meanwhile every kind of lawbreaker who’s had a run-in with military justice gets moved up to higher duties.” 

One general told NG that General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin — slated to head Russia’s new military police force — got one year of probation for trying to sell a pistol while attending the Frunze Military Academy.  The paper then lists some other, less prominent, cases of officers with shady or criminal backgrounds who’ve advanced through the ranks to higher posts.
 
NG’s sources claim the Defense Ministry’s cadre policy will soon undergo an analysis and evaluation by the PA’s cadre department.

The Defense Ministry’s PR blitz (as well as independent reporting) in the wake of the resignations blunted Konovalov’s assertion that the generals were quitting over disagreements with military reforms.  This article answered his question from earlier — his sources say the PA will investigate recent Defense Ministry personnel moves.  But one wonders how much time and attention President Medvedev’s people can devote to this with an agenda already full of political and domestic policy issues.

Personnel Notes and Rumors

According to his revised Mil.ru bio, Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Mokretsov will supervise the Armed Forces’ finances after all.

Last week Komsomolskaya pravda quoted Defense Minister Serdyukov saying General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin, Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander of the Central MD, will head Russia’s new military police force this year.

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.

Also last week, Vedomosti reported that Serdyukov has forwarded the name of Aleksandr Sukhorukov, Director of Rosoboronzakaz, to take over Vladimir Popovkin’s old armaments portfolio.  A little harder to believe, two other Vedomosti sources say Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy might take the armaments job.

Battalion Travels Lighter in Mobilnost Redux

Krasnaya zvezda covered the opening phases of Vostok-2010 for those willing to plod through or skim the article.  Motorized rifle brigades are taking turns practicing defeating bandit groups, the VVS are providing air support to MVD Internal Troops units, and PVO battalions are conducting night firing exercises with new C2 systems.

RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported that nearly 600 Volga-Ural Military District (PUrVO) troops were flown to the Far East on Tuesday (29 June) to participate in summer’s marquee training event.  Four Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА) Il-76MD transports delivered a battalion tactical group (BTG) with only light weapons to join in the operational-strategic exercise (OSU or ОСУ). 

According to ITAR-TASS, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov said that in the course of Vostok-2010:

“. . . issues are being broadly worked out about the expedience of redeploying at a great distance trained personnel which have to take military equipment held at mobilization bases and immediately go into combat.”

This certainly sounds like a military establishment not fully embracing an idea, at least right away.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, a BTG from the 28th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade flew 6,000 kilometers from Koltsovo, outside Yekaterinburg, to Vozdvizhenka, north of Ussuriysk, on a 10-hour flight with a refueling stop at Belaya near Irkutsk.  The 28th was built on the base of a regiment of the old 34th MRD.

Krasnaya zvezda said the battalion moved via truck to an armaments and equipment storage base [БХРВТ] at Sibirtsevo for outfitting with heavy equipment.  The 247th BKhRVT was established last year with the remnants of the former 121st MRD.  After removing equipment from storage and some training, they were slated to join tactical combat firing at Sergeyevka.

Acting PUrVO Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin saw off the battalion; he commanded the brigade’s forerunner—the 34th MRD in 2004.  The brigade’s commander, Colonel Anatoliy Sinelnikov, was Surovikin’s deputy division commander in 2004 when it first sent a BTG to the Far East.

Krasnaya zvezda asked Surovikin to compare the current redeployment with the earlier one six years ago in Mobilnost-2004:

“Then a sub-unit with all of its TO&E equipment was sent into action.  And it fulfilled its assigned mission.  The current exercise is being conducted according to the General Staff’s decision which specifies checking the expedience of means of redeploying troops on various strategic axes.  In this instance, the exercise is being conducted only with personnel – without transporting combat equipment and heavy weapons to the Far East.  But it allows us to check the possibility of redeploying troops in other strategic directions.  And to conduct such a redeployment in a very short period.  And using for these purposes Military-Transport Aviation aircraft as well as civilian airlines.”

“In this exercise, means of regrouping troops in short time periods are being tried.  By comparison:  if in OSU Mobilnost-2004 we could send a battalion of the 276th Motorized Rifle Regiment of our division by air to the Far East together with its combat equipment and vehicles in 8 days, then this time such a battalion will get there in significantly less time.  And the quantity of aircraft take-offs to transport the very same sub-unit to another theater of military operations was reduced more than ten times.  High strategic mobility is achieved with much lower expenditure of forces and budget resources.”

While not exactly a Russian Reforger, this redeployment exercise looks like working smarter, not harder.  So it represents some payoff from the effort to turn understrength, excess units into mobilization bases.  Of course, one has to believe there’s still some element of the set piece in all this.  The battalion being moved was probably one of the best, and the BKhRVT was probably well-prepared to hand out the necessary weapons and combat vehicles.