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.