Tag Archives: FSB

“Chekist” Matovnikov

On January 22, President Putin appointed General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Matovnikov to be Deputy CINC of the Ground Troops. He had been Polpred in the North Caucasus Federal District since mid-2018 and Commander of Special Operations Forces (SSO) from 2015 to 2018. 

Matovnikov as general-major next to Putin

54-year-old Matovnikov was born in Moscow, the son of a career KGB officer from the 7th Directorate (Surveillance). His father was retired after destroying incriminating KGB documents when the ill-fated August 1991 putsch against Gorbachev collapsed.

In 1986, the younger Matovnikov graduated from the KGB Border Guards Higher Military-Political School in suburban Moscow. At his father’s request, he received a highly desirable posting to the 7th Directorate’s Alfa anti-terrorist group. He served in a motorized Alfa unit operating with Soviet Border Guards reportedly to interdict weapons and drugs smuggled from Afghanistan into Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

Matovnikov served on Gorbachev’s security detail in Washington in 1987 and 1988. He went on to become first deputy chief of the FSB’s Directorate A (Alfa).

He fought in both Chechen wars, including involvement in hostage rescues in Budennovsk in 1995, Dubrovka in 2002, and Beslan in 2004. In Chechnya, he got the nickname “Chekist” (“state security man”).

Matovnikov was in charge of Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov’s security. Kadyrov was assassinated in a 2004 bombing. Matovnikov reportedly got on good terms with Kadyrov’s son Ramzan, the republic’s strongman and possible hitman against those who impugn Mr. Putin.

In 2013, Matovnikov transferred from the FSB to the Ministry of Defense as Deputy Commander, SSO, then Commander in 2015.

In 2018, news outlet Rbc.ru wrote:

Like many Alfa men, Matovnikov then went into a new structure attached to the General Staff — the Special Operations Forces (SSO), which unlike conventional armed forces sub-units could act in covert military operations abroad without the approval of the Council of the Federation. At first Matovnikov became Deputy Commander of the SSO, then headed them after the departure of Aleksey Dyumin in December 2015 for the post of Deputy Defense Minister. Matovnikov built the SSO structure in the image and likeness of Alfa — the equipping and requirements on personnel were the same as for officers in the former service . . . .

Matovnikov, Dyumin, and the SSO were instrumental in Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and likely also in the invasion of eastern Ukraine.

Matovnikov received his Hero of the Russian Federation from Putin in 2017 for his time in Syria. He became a two-star general on February 22, 2018.

In mid-2018, RF President Putin selected Matovnikov to be his Plenipotentiary Representative in the North Caucasus Federal District.

Rbc.ru continues:

. . . in the past he participated in specops in Syria, Africa and Ukrainie, but also parallel to his service in the SSO he was attached to the president [Putin] for special assignments, noted a former colleague of Matovnikov. “In [Matovnikov’s] circle, they talk about him as one of the siloviki close to the President — he regularly met Vladimir Putin at Vnukovo Airport and enjoyed his personal trust. It’s possible they decided to try the combat officer in civilian service [as Polpred], in economic work with the aim of a federal political career as they did with Dyumin in his time,” one Alfa veteran told RBK (Aleksey Dyumin at the beginning of 2016 was appointed Governor of Tula oblast). A source close to the Polpred in the SKFO [North Caucasus Federal District] confirmed for RBK that Matovnikov was an officer attached to the president for special assignments.

Matovnikov in mufti sporting his Hero of the Russian Federation

After just 18 months as Polpred, Putin sent him back to the MOD as Deputy CINC of Ground Troops, replacing 63-year-old General-Colonel Aleksandr Lentsov, who became Adviser to the RF Defense Minister — a familiar sinecure one step closer to retirement.

Matovnikov is married with two young children as well as an adult daughter from his previous marriage.

What do we make of the Mr. Matovnikov?

He’s an older, paler reproduction of Dyumin with differences. He’s seven years older and, though cut from the same KGB cloth, he’s Alfa not FSB-FSO-SBP — or Presidential Security Service — like Dyumin, who was Putin’s personal bodyguard and assistant. Many were quick to claim Putin was grooming Dyumin as his successor.

In fact, Putin is probably having auditions for men like Matovnikov and Dyumin to see if they are fit for bigger things. They are loyal KGB types who share Putin’s mentality. This may say more about Putin.

As Brian Taylor has concluded in his insightful The Code of Putinism, since 2015-2016, Putin has been shifting away from old, long-time colleagues who supported Team Putin for many years toward younger, less independent security service veterans who answer to him only. He may be seeking men willing to protect his freedom and fortune and keep him as president-for-life effectively. They could prevent Putin from becoming a future Ceausescu or Qaddafi.

Dyumin was Deputy Minister of Defense for just weeks before moving to Tula where he’s been governor for about 3-1/2 years. Matovnikov’s stint as Polpred was brief for a region as complex as the North Caucasus. Perhaps his stay with the Ground Troops will be brief too before he moves to another fully political post.

The insertion of a former KGB man and SSO veteran into the Ground Troops makes one think Putin wants dramatic and decisive victories, not just plodding, predictable daily management of preparations for wars Russia isn’t likely to fight. As such, Matovnikov is probably pretty unwelcome where senior Russian Army officers have toiled their entire careers.

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.

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.

Policy To-and-Fro on Military Police

State Secretary and Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov probably didn’t surprise a lot of people when he announced the latest Defense Ministry flip (or flop this time?) on the military police issue last week.

 Pankov announced that:

 “The Defense Ministry has found the establishment of military police inexpedient at this stage of Army and Navy reform.  Directive documents on the establishment of military police in the Russian Army have been suspended, and orders on the formation of these structures in the military districts and the fleets have lost force.”

 Later, the press quoted Pankov differently:

 “I wouldn’t say it so categorically – this work is suspended for now.”

But he didn’t elaborate on the Defense Ministry’s reasons for stopping or suspending the effort at this moment.

Military police units are, or were, supposed to stand up in 2010.  Their mission was to maintain order and discipline, and prevent hazing and other barracks violence and crime, primarily thefts of military property.  A military police department started working in the Defense Ministry’s Main Combat Training and Troop Service Directorate last December, drawing up plans and training programs for the new MP units.

In early February, a Defense Ministry representative denied press reports that Defense Minister Serdyukov had suspended work on the military police force.  But a source in the Defense Ministry’s press service told the media that “the documents establishing it have been sent to the appropriate legal directorates for reworking.”  He said that forming the military police would require amendments in federal legislation beyond the Defense Minister’s purview.

The back-and-forth, on-and-off nature of Russia’s yet-to-be created military police calls into question the Defense Ministry’s capacity to formulate and implement policies, or at least to do it so its doesn’t  look foolish.  Why would any military district commander or brigade chief of staff hurry to introduce any new policy or regulation that might just be overturned 6 months from now, or never implemented at all? 

As with the rumored halt in February, the latest stop may in fact be related to legal issues, but they usually only become an obstacle when they’re really protecting someone’s bureaucratic empire.  In this case, the military prosecutor and MVD are obviously very interested parties when it comes to devising a military police policy.  And they are pretty big hitters vis-à-vis the Defense Ministry.

The Defense Ministry already has plenty of people and organizations involved in military law enforcement, but they seem unable or unwilling to organize and cooperate to do the job.  Existing military law enforcement mechanisms could be made to work properly. 

Another sticking point may continue to be who will be in charge of a new military police force.  The prosecutor and MVD probably don’t want military police to answer to the Defense Ministry.  Military commanders could misuse or corrupt military police who would be enforcing laws on those commanders as well as ordinary servicemen.

Svpressa.ru talked to Anatoliy Tsyganok in this vein.  He said:

 “It once again attests to poorly thought-out reforms, zigzagging from side to side, senseless expenditure of resources needed for reequipping the army, and social programs.”

From the get-go, Tsyganok was against spending a ‘not small’ amount of money on a new structure seen as a panacea for all the army’s ills, at a time when the existing military command structure should be able to handle military police functions.

Tsyganok continues:

“. . . I came out not against military police per se, but against the dissipation of resources allocated for army reform:  the fact that they change conscripts for contractees, but then reverse this, the fact that they bring Yudashkin to design uniforms, but then chuck it, now here’s the confusion with military police.  It’d be better to use these resources on weapons for the army.  Russia’s military-industrial complex exports 90 percent of its production.  Aircraft to China and India, helicopters to Latin America and Middle Eastern countries.  Automatic weapons to Venezuela.  But the Russian Army scrapes by with old weapons.  At the same time money is invested in not well thought-out projects.”

“At present our servicemen who have violated order or broken the law are sent to do their time in basements, in special trenches, in storage areas.  Serdyukov doesn’t have financial resources even to build apartments for officers, there can’t even be talk about guardhouses.”

 “Now order among the troops is controlled by commandant (komendatura) forces, commandant patrols, commandant platoons and regiments, internal details; military traffic police structures are active.  This is a huge force.  For example, in Moscow there are 10 districts.  An integral commandant regiment patrols every district.  And is this little?  But military prosecutors, special departments [OO – FSB men—особисты or osobisty, embedded in large military groupings, units, and garrisons] also exist to maintain legal order in the army.  We need to force all this organizational and personnel mass to work effectively.  But for this the Defense Ministry itself needs to work effectively, and not spend money on schemes.”

 “The Defense Ministry leadership in answer to criticism about rampant crime in the army created nothing but the appearance of vigorous activity.  It’s hard to keep order, but forming something else at the expense of budget resources is easy.”

 “The failure of the project was sealed in its very organizational basis.  They proposed to subordinate the military police to the Defense Ministry in the person of the first deputy minister.  The fact is the very same operational structure of military control and repression would wind up in the hands of military leaders themselves.  This is a criminally corrupt thing.  Any Defense Minister, major troop commander, or independent unit commander could arrest on any pretext and end the contract of any inconvenient serviceman.”

Tsyganok kind of skirts around the issue without saying so, but it may be there’s not enough money to pay for building a military police force.

 Interfaks cited Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Mikhail Babich, who called on the Defense Ministry to be more cautious about making changes in the armed forces and to avoid revoking its own decisions, as may be happening in the case of military police.  Babich is a somewhat critical and independent-minded member of Putin’s United Russia party.  He also said armed forces reforms require serious budget expenditures, so every time this or that program is dropped, the reasons should be closely studied and analyzed.  He concludes:

“I think the Defense Minister should hold to account those who were responsible for drawing up and implementing programs deemed unsuccessful.  First of all, this means the federal targeted program for recruiting professional sergeants in 2009-2015, which has not really started and the allocated money was spent on different purposes.”

Babich goes on to note that it’s still unclear what’s happening with Russia’s 85 permanent readiness combined arms brigades that replaced divisions in the Ground Troops.

“The Defense Ministry is keeping silent about this but it’s already clear that plans to establish permanent readiness combined arms brigades have fallen through.  As a result, it’s been decided to divide them into three types:  heavy, medium, and light.  Yet again everything is being done by rule of thumb.”

Shurygin Critiques Military Reform (Part 2)

Continuing on with Reform or Lie, Shurygin describes today’s efforts against officers perceived as disloyal to the Defense Ministry leadership as comparable to Stalin’s repression of the officer corps.  Alluding to the FSB’s monitoring of the army, he says the constant search for leaks includes the use of wiretaps and the compilation of names of officers’ “undesirable” acquaintances and contacts.

In the SibVO, the officer corps has been cut in half.  4,000 dismissed outright, and 2,500 were placed outside the TO&E, i.e. left without a duty post.  According to Shurygin, they’ll get their base pay, but only for six months.  So there are 37,000 officers deprived of a way to make a living.  But he says some have been offered vacant sergeant positions.

Young officers coming out of VVUZy have also been surprised.  Military linguists from the Military University in 2009 were either put out of the service immediately or offered posts in the rear services.  Forty thousand of 142,000 warrant officers found a place in the ‘new profile’ and the rest were dismissed.

Shurygin suggests the High Command has been bought off by the Defense Minister.  He says “loyal” military district commanders are getting 300-400,000 rubles per month, deputy chiefs of the General Staff 500,000, and Makarov himself more than 800,000 rubles every month.

He believes Serdyukov and Makarov’s underlings have to deceive them about the real state of affairs, and report what they want to hear.  There are currently no structures to check up on the reformers, according to Shurygin.  Lapses and failures are presented like victories and successes.

He turns to the contract army.  There are so few contractees now, less than 79,000, that they barely cover the minimal need for them.  One-fourth are women.  The remainder barely cover a fourth of the manning needed for ‘new profile’ brigades.  So all services and branches are 75 percent manned by conscript soldiers.  Of the 300,000 men called up every six months, fully 100,000 are needed simply to cover the deficit in professional contractees.

The professional sergeants program was delayed because the majority of possible candidates couldn’t pass secondary school-style entrance exams.  When finally launched in one location–Ryazan, the sergeants’ training center has less than one-third the trainees intended.

Shurygin describes the closure of the 47th Independent Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment in Shatalovo.  According to him, they flew aircraft to their new base in Voronezh, and transported their engines back to Shatalovo, so that other aircraft could fly into Voronezh. 

Shurygin says Serdyukov has already signed off on a decision to scrap 1,000 aircraft requiring capital repairs.  This will shrink Russia’s aircraft inventory by one-third.  The tank inventory will be cut by a factor of four if only operational tanks are left in the force.  Shurygin asks what will happen in the next five years when another 1,000 aircraft use up their service lives.  Russia will have an air force about the size of Israel’s, according to him.  Only 70 future fixed-wing and helicopter pilots entered training in Krasnodar this year.

Shurygin criticizes Makarov for his less than savvy comments, for instance, about deploying the S-400 to the Far East against North Korean missiles or moving Bulava production to another factory.  He says the degradation of the army has continued for two years under Serdyukov, but he and Makarov don’t have to answer for anything.  They were forced to acknowledge that the infamous Order 400 on premium pay was a mistake that divided officers, and now they’ll be giving it to entire units.

In the future, officers from platoon to division will be earning 75,000-220,000 rubles per month and bonuses and supplements will disappear in favor of a higher pay scale.  But Shurygin complains that Serdyukov intends to ‘reform’ military pensions to decouple them from the new pay scale.

Lastly, Shurygin describes the Black Sea Fleet as on the verge of an explosion.  Officers have been put out.  They can’t keep their service apartments and they can’t get apartments in Russia.  They can’t work in Ukraine and live like bums.  And the situation gets worse every month.

The last part of Shurygin’s hasn’t been published.