Tag Archives: Vladimir Shamanov

Shamanov Doing Well, His Staff Not So Well

Interfaks reports the VDV’s spokesman says Airborne Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov is doing well enough to receive visitors and work from his hospital bed, though doctors won’t say at this point when he might be discharged.

Tuesday’s Argumenty.ru reported bad news for Shamanov’s staff.  A Defense Ministry commission working in the VDV will soon issue its decision on cutting the airborne staff.  A military source says it’s only a formality since a decision, not favorable to the VDV, has already been made.

The officer said the commission arrived immediately after Defense Minister Serdyukov’s 30 September dust-up with VDV Colonel Krasov at the Seltsy training center near Ryazan.  It had mainly finance and personnel people.  Scheduled to work for two weeks, the commission needed more than a month, and didn’t finish until after Shamanov’s car accident on 30 October.

According to Argumenty.ru’s source, the report will consider it expedient to cut the VDV’s Main Staff by two times, transfer its headquarters from Moscow to Ryazan or Tula, and sell its current premises in Sokolniki.

Shurygin on the VDV’s Discontent

Writing in Zavtra, Vladislav Shurygin has added his take on Sunday’s VDV protest.  As usual, it’s a different cut with different details, but a unique one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Here’s the gist.  Shurygin says it’s not just the VDV’s discontent, but the military’s.  He enumerates the VDV’s specific grievances.  He claims the airborne has lost its status as the Supreme CINC’s strategic reserve and been placed operationally under OSKs West, South, Central, and East. 

Much of Shurygin’s article comes down to the VDV’s alleged loss of elite status.  Others, however, would say Serdyukov’s handled the airborne with kid gloves compared to how other services have suffered.  They might also say it’s high time the VDV got knocked down a notch or two.  

Shurygin seems to want to say that vlasti are more worried, or should be more worried, about discontent in the army than they appear.  He says Serdyukov can’t be dislodged from the Defense Ministry by his opponents, only the internal imperatives of vlasti will move him to another job; then he’ll be replaced by someone who’ll begin his own reform.

Shurygin quotes one Russian Airborne Union (SDR or СДР) official on how servicemen are left socially unprotected:

“In the framework of this reform which is destructive for the country, the overwhelming majority of servicemen have been dismissed without serving the term enabling them to get a pension.  Half of them don’t have housing.  Our country already has a sad experience of dismantling troops.  In the distant 1950s, the Defense Ministry decided to eliminate Naval Infantry under the pretext of missile-nuclear weapons development, saying that, if necessary, conventional infantry could fully replace it.  Nearly 50 years later history’s repeating itself.  Only now the VDV and Spetsnaz ended up in the role of unneeded forces.”

Shurygin continues:

“Meanwhile, the attitude of high state officials toward the VDV has been drawing criticism for a long time already.  In July, when the VDV observed its 80th anniversary, neither the Supreme CINC, nor the Prime Minister appeared at a ceremonial concert in the Kremlin palace and they didn’t even send the nominal greeting customary in such instances.  Then a directive according to which the VDV command would become subordinate to the Main Command of the Ground Troops was prepared, and VDV formations and units are in fact being transferred into operational subordination to the commands of strategic axes ‘North,’ [sic] ‘West,’ ‘South,’ and ‘East.’  That is, they’re being taken from the reserve of and immediate subordination to the Supreme CINC of the RF Armed Forces.  Add to this the estrangement of the VDV from work with premilitary youth in DOSAAF and the elimination of the Ryazan Airborne Higher Military Command School, which has been dropped into the Ground Troops training center (Combined Arms Academy), and the elimination of the VDV Personnel Directorate, which will put a final end to the elite status of the VDV, traditionally proud of its own unique personnel school.  In fact, a quiet destruction of the troops is going on.”

Shurygin says VDV Commander Shamanov’s doctors say confidentially that, in intensive care, he was in no condition for paperwork, and his right hand was immobilized when he supposedly authored his message urging VDV on Poklonnaya Gora to avoid confronting the Defense Ministry.   

So Shurygin doubts Shamanov wrote this, but he doesn’t allow for the possibility that the general dictated words to be issued in his name.

Shurygin adds that sources close to the Defense Ministry say the Shamanov document turned up in the hands of Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, was edited by his people, and sent to the hospital for Shamanov’s signature as he was being wheeled into surgery. 

Shurygin shifts gears reprinting part of an interview he gave Baltinform prior to the Poklonnaya Gora demonstration.  Asked about Serdyukov, he says:

“The reform Serdyukov is conducting causes confusion in specialists.  The opposition to the pogrom he’s conducted in the army is very great.  Tens of thousands of people are opposed — they really see what is happening in the troops, and are trying to get this information to the public.”

“The fact that this [Seltsy] scandal received publicity is not evidence of conspiracy, but evidence of the crudest error in Serdyukov’s judgment, who left himself open, conducting himself rudely and offending an honored officer, a Hero of Russia.  And this outrageous incident only became the latest reason again to raise the theme of reform.  If the main reformer conducts himself in such an unworthy manner, then this automatically calls forth questions about the entire reform he’s conducted.  I think that opposition to Serdyukov is located not at the Kremlin level or any mysterious officials, but at the level of those whom military reform has literally ‘run over like a tank.'”

 I relate to [Serdyukov] as an absolutely incompetent person who occupies a job that is not his.  And for three years already he’s been learning the completely new business of managing the army at the cost of huge damage to the latter.  First they constantly destroy army structures like a house of cards, then they try to ‘sculpt’ and create something out of them.”

  “Some directives are suspended, others are given out and then are suspended.  The army leadership is feverishly searching as if trying to get a careening wagon down a hill in the necessary direction, but still just increasing the chaos and disintegration.  Massive break-ups were undertaken in place of approaching reforms from a scientific viewpoint and working out experiments on specially selected parts.”

“The Armed Forces have been ‘cut to the bone.’  They’ve broken everything in them, both the bad, and the good.  They broke it, then observed the mistakes, and are now trying to correct them.”

Asked if Serdyukov will finish his reforms or be replaced because of complaints from his opponents, Shurygin concludes:

“It seems to me he’ll go to that phase when it’ll be officially acknowledged that the reform has taken place.  Then a moment will come when it’s necessary to make a change in the official hierarchy, and Serdyukov will be transferred to another position.  The one who comes into his place, will begin his own reform anew, perhaps, a more ‘quiet’ one.  But he won’t avoid long work analyzing the mess of forest cut down by Serdyukov.”

Officer Discontent on Poklonnaya Gora

Reviewing the press on Sunday’s VDV meeting on Poklonnaya Gora, one could say there’s an inclination to dismiss it as the howling of old cranks who don’t constitute an organized challenge to anything or anyone.  But behind that initial take, some media saw palpable discontent among officers, both retired and active duty.  Nezavisimaya gazeta suggested there might be more below the surface of this rather feeble demonstration – either more powerful interests or much larger numbers of affected individuals.  Ekspert concluded, at a minimum, the whole episode might lead Defense Minister Serdyukov to take the opinions of officers more seriously.      

The VDV demonstration goes back to the 30 September Seltsy incident, and the Russian Airborne Union’s (SDR) call for Serdyukov resign for insulting Hero of Russia, Colonel Krasov as well as for destroying the army.  Kommersant put the number of participants at about 1,500.  Retired General-Colonel Vyacheslav Achalov and other organizers threaten to resume protesting on 17 November if President Medvedev doesn’t fire Serdyukov.  They also want General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, and Main Personnel Directorate Chief Viktor Goremykin to resign. 

The conspiracy-minded protesters maintain that Vladimir Shamanov’s crash was no accident; they think someone tried to kill him since he’s the only man standing in the way of the VDV’s ruin.

The Defense Ministry didn’t officially comment on yesterday’s protest, but Kommersant garnered an unofficial reaction.  An unnamed Defense Ministry representative said:

“Criticism should be constructive.  When memorial days like 7 November are used for political purposes, it’s unseemly.  Moreover, criticizing the minister for the reform is premature, since it’s not complete yet.”

So the Defense Ministry didn’t think the protest was helpful, but they also think 7 November is still a holiday.  The last is the best though.  Exactly when, where, and how are opponents supposed to raise their objections?  When everything’s over and done with?  Another insight into current regime thinking about the proper interaction of politics and policymaking . . . none.

Nezavisimaya gazeta was most interested that it wasn’t just the usual non-systemic outcasts at the VDV rally, but Just Russia (Справедливая Россия) flags showed that some of the official opposition was there too.  Federation Council Speaker and Just Russia leader Sergey Mironov was once a VDV senior sergeant himself.  NG sees SR trying to play an army card to its advantage while remaining part of the official opposition.

The paper says Mironov could be using the military, and showing support for officers against Serdyukov (and Medvedev by extension) for his own purposes.  And he’s politicizing the army – something not done in recent years and generally considered unacceptable.  NG indicates some think there’s more to all this than just a reaction to Serdyukov’s alleged rudeness to the VDV:

“There is, incidentally, an opinion that the [Seltsy] incident was only a pretext, and the interests of some military circles and retired officers connected to them, who feed off the army and are dissatisfied with the current military reform, are behind the protest.”

Novyye Izvestiya describes Poklonnaya Gora as quite the retrograde affair replete with Soviet flags, and the usual representatives of the radical opposition.

One participant bragged to its reporter after passing through one of many metal detectors:

“We don’t need weapons, we could take the Kremlin with a stool leg.”

But Novyye had more serious points too, like one ex-VDV who complained of Serdyukov’s cuts in military medicine, and his commercialization of military hospitals.  He asked:

“What military doctors will be on the battlefield?  There aren’t any remaining.  But there’s no one to fight, in a year’s army service what can you learn?  Only to sweep the parade ground.”

The paper concludes VDV veterans believe only military men can solve the army’s problems, the army needs to be mobile and highly capable, and it shouldn’t be shameful to serve in it.  At least everyone seems to agree on the last two.

Writing for Ekspert, Stanislav Kuvaldin describes Seltsy and Poklonnaya Gora as a breakdown in communications between the Defense Minister and the officer corps.  One SDR leader told Kuvaldin:

“Serving officers are silent, but they think the same things.  We grew them and indoctrinated them.”

He went on to say that even if they are silent about Serdyukov and reforms in exchange for today’s higher officer pay, it doesn’t mean they’ve been suppressed.

A key element of Serdyukov’s reform is basically tripling officer pay, and this higher pay is already a serious factor in calculations about serving, but it hasn’t happened yet (except for those getting special premium pay).  Nevertheless, potentially higher pay won’t automatically mean Serdyukov will be more popular, and it doesn’t mean the VDV will get over Serdyukov’s insult to one of its officers and a Hero of Russia, according to Kuvaldin.

Kuvaldin reports the Defense Ministry may compromise on some of the VDV’s more specific complaints, i.e. not moving the VDV Headquarters to Ryazan and preserving the VDV Museum, but not reversing the VDV Higher Military Command School’s subordination to the Combined Arms Academy.

In the end, Kuvaldin writes, this dissatisfaction is only creating tense moments for Serdyukov, not a serious threat:

“In the end, if after two years of reforms, vulgar insults to the head of one military school have become the cause for veterans to come out, it’s possible only to talk about an unpleasant emotional backdrop for the minister, but not about a hypothetical organized resistance.”

However, possibly, the situation will force the minister to deal with officers’ opinions more attentively and respectfully.

But this author wouldn’t bet on it.

In a not particularly surprising postscript, the GAI stopped SDR leader Pavel Popovskikh — former colonel, VDV Reconnaissance Chief, and defendant in the murder of journalist Dmitriy Kholodov — for driving drunk after the demonstration.  The story was widely reported, but an alternative version hasn’t gotten as much play.  Segodnya.ru reported that Popovskikh’s friends and others say he stopped drinking long ago.  The website also says Vladislav Shurygin wrote in his blog that traffic cops were ordered to stop Popovskikh and check him for alcohol, but they sheepishly released him with an apology when they found he was sober.

Shamanov Looking at 3-Months Recovery Time

RIA Novosti reports VDV Commander Vladimir Shamanov will require fairly lengthy recuperation time following his injury in an auto accident last month, according to a Burdenko Main Military Clinical Hospital source.

The source said:

“After the operation performed on Shamanov, doctors evaluated his condition as satisfactory, the operation went successfully and his rehabilitation is also going normally — no complications have appeared at this time.”

Despite this, Shamanov’s recuperation will take a long time:

“According to preliminary assessments of the attending doctors, for the general’s complete recovery and return to duty a minimum of three months could be required.”

The source added that the 106th Division’s Colonel Naumets is currently still serious but stable, and he may be looking at a 6-month recovery time.  Shamanov’s aide Colonel Chernous, also in the accident, wasn’t mentioned in this report, but his condition was less serious than Naumets’.

Poklonnaya Gora Coverage

Furniture Man Minister Is Russia's Shame

A Livejournal blogger’s provided photos and comments on today’s meeting of airborne and other veterans on Poklonnaya Gora.  Organized by former VDV Commander Achalov, the protest is dedicated to denouncing Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and his reforms.  The blogger puts the number of demonstrators at less than 4,000.

According to Lenta.ru, current and former VDV generals have appealed to airborne veterans not to get into it with the Defense Ministry.  They included current chief of staff, Nikolay Ignatov, former Commander Georgiy Shpak, and former First Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Kolmakov.  An address from VDV Commander General-Lieutentant Vladimir Shamanov, who remains in the hospital following last weekend’s car accident, was also read.

Shamanov asserted that an ‘unprecedented propaganda campaign’ has been unleashed against Serdyukov in the last month to force his dismissal.  He added that some of ‘our respected and honored comrades’ have been drawn into this ‘politicized game.’

He said everyone from platoon commander to Defense Minister makes mistakes:

“However, this doesn’t mean that we need to demand their immediate resignation for every miscalculation.”

Sounding like the ultimate devotee of civilian control of the army, Shamanov said Serdyukov is making long overdue changes at the Supreme CINC’s direction.  He denied the VDV has lost any combat capability due to Serdyukov’s reforms and again promised it’ll remain an independent branch, receive new weapons and equipment, and get two more formations.  

He told airborne men ‘not to believe loud, but misleading announcements about how the VDV’s combat capability will supposedly decline.’  He said corrupt people of all stripes and so-called oppositionists are against the army’s renewal.

Shamanov called on delegates to this ‘conference’ of the Russian Airborne Union not to allow themselves to be dragged into an unnecessary confrontation with the Defense Ministry.

Shamanov Update

This morning’s press says VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov had a complex but successful four-hour surgery yesterday to repair hip and elbow joints damaged in Saturday’s head-on collision near Tula.  A spokesman for the Burdenko Main Military Clinical Hospital said Shamanov was feeling ‘normal’ after his operation.

Acting 106th Division Commander, Colonel Naumets’ condition remains serious and his surgery hasn’t been scheduled.  Colonel Chernous has improved, and he’s been moved out of intensive care.

Shamanov Update

Shamanov's BMW 525 (photo: Lifenews.ru)

If we needed reminding, the extent of media coverage of Shamanov’s narrow escape from Saturday’s horrific head-on collision proves again that this two-star general is a national figure.

So what happened?  Shamanov’s warrant officer driver was killed; some press is saying he turned the car to take the blow himself and protect the boss.

Shamanov was in serious, but stable condition, and was moved from Tula to Moscow’s Burdenko Main Military Clinical Hospital.  Also injured were the acting commander of the VDV’s 106th Division, Colonel Aleksey Naumets, and Shamanov’s assistant Colonel Oleg Chernous.  Naumets’ condition is serious, but Chernous has improved a little. 

Putin Visits Shamanov (photo: RIA Novosti)

Prime Minister Putin and Defense Minister Serdyukov visited his bedside.  Izvestiya reported Putin said Shamanov was in a good mood despite what happened to him.  Serdyukov said:

“Vladimir Shamanov is real airborne, and airborne, as is well-known, are spiritually strong and physically powerful people.  Therefore I’m sure that he’ll get right and return to the line.”

Shamanov was in satisfactory condition this morning, and he went into surgery at 1200 MSK.  The focus of today’s operation was the general’s left leg.  Reports say Shamanov suffered a concussion and unspecified fractures to his arms and legs.

One has to wonder if Shamanov can rebound from this.  He might, but he might not be the same.  It would be surprising if he’s able to resume his regimen of jumping with the troops, etc.  He’s 53 and faces retirement on age grounds in a couple years unless he adds another star.  If he emerges from this accident with any kind of disability, he could be put out for that reason.  Of course, it all comes down to whether the powers-that-be want him in or out.

And this story wouldn’t be complete without possible conspiracy.  More than a couple commentators wonder if someone isn’t out to eliminate Shamanov . . . could be his son-in-law Glyba’s enemies . . . could be airborne veterans who might object to his slavish support for Serdyukov.  The Defense Ministry denies that anyone was out to get the VDV Commander.  It might just be an accident.

Shamanov Sides with Serdyukov

General-Lieutenant Shamanov

VDV Commander Vladimir Shamanov knows which side his bread’s buttered on.  Talking to the press yesterday, Shamanov supported the boss in the storm over his alleged obscenity and грубость at the VDV’s Seltsy training center.

In short, Tverskaya, 13 reported the airborne chief doesn’t believe the story about Defense Minister Serdyukov.  He denies the boss ordered Colonel Krasov dismissed as head of the airborne commissioning school.

According to Shamanov, Serdyukov expressed doubts about constructing the Church of the Prophet Elijah opposite the airborne training school, since cadets aren’t there for long.  The Defense Minister suggested [politely one is sure] that they move the church to a populated area adjacent to the training center where the congregation can take care of it [but aren’t the VDV cadets and officers the congregation?].  Shamanov concludes:

“All the rest is cock and bull.”

Apparently answering the Union of Russian Airborne Troops’ appeal to the President and Patriarch, Shamanov told ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti he’s satisfied with the course of army reforms, and doesn’t see any reason to worry about the fate of his service branch:

“The plans that will be presented to the Supreme CINC for approval indicate that the VDV’s composition will remain as before.  Also two more district-level airborne formations [соединение] should come into service raising the troops’ potential overall.”

As if to assure people the VDV won’t march on the Kremlin, Shamanov added that the situation in his branch is “normal,” and his troops are occupied with combat training as usual.

Tverskaya, 13 reported Shamanov saying for the umpteenth time that his branch will remain independent [i.e. not be subordinated to the Ground Troops] under Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms.  He added that the VDV will get the BMD-4M according to the ‘concept’ of GPV 2020.

We should recall that Serdyukov may have helped Shamanov on some occasions, and certainly did in one instance.  The Defense Minister at least acquiesced in Shamanov’s return to lead the VDV in May 2009.  And last September, he helped Shamanov out of his own scandal when he tried to order a detachment from the VDV’s 45th Independent Reconnaissance Regiment to detain an investigator looking into his son-in-law, a well-known criminal figure.  Shamanov only got a reprimand for this incident.  He could easily have been dismissed.  Serdyukov likely retained him because the airborne general is a useful ally.

In today’s Tverskaya, 13, Deputy Defense Minister Naginskiy offered an impassioned defense of Serdyukov.  Naginskiy was on the Seltsy inspection with the Defense Minister.

Naginskiy said they saw facilities unfinished since 2008.  But he doesn’t exactly deny the press reports:

“Nothing terrible happened there.  I think if people standing 120 meters behind us heard something, filled it in, and put it on the Internet, they are dishonest.  I can say there was no boorishness or cursing, but there were raised voices, when on the territory of a unit entrusted to you someone is selling things and someone is building for 180 million rubles, undoubtedly, this calls forth natural indignation and, as it should, a conversation in raised voices.”

Naginskiy goes on, questioning why they need a church at Seltsy when troops go there to train and then return to Ryazan, but:

“I’m in absolute solidarity with the Defense Minister — what I saw there brought indignation.  There were no orders to move the church.”

This morning Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Viktor Litovkin reported some comments from Colonel Krasov himself: 

“In particular, Serdyukov expressed dissatisfaction over the incomplete repair of the cafeteria and engineering networks.  The conversation was very emotional both from Krasov’s side [speaking of himself in the third person] and from Serdyukov’s side.  However, this was a businesslike dialog.  The Ryazan school has already eliminated deficiencies revealed during the military minister’s visit.”

That certainly sounds like some type of unpleasantness transpired.  Litovkin says it’s strange neither Shamanov nor Krasov remembered [or mentioned] any obscenities.  But nevertheless he concludes:

“If this is ‘cock and bull’ as General Shamanov says, or simply ‘businesslike dialog,’ as Colonel Krasov asserts, then it’s no longer worth worrying about the battle against dedovshchina and nonregulation relations in the armed forces.”

It isn’t worth it because the abuse of subordinates apparently begins from the Defense Ministry’s very top, and won’t ever be rooted out.

Litovkin finishes saying the VDV have nothing to gain from fighting with Serdyukov, and are just trying to silence the whole incident.  There will be other defense ministers, but the VDV will always exist.

Izvestiya’s Dmitriy Litovkin says his Defense Ministry sources say there were no demands to raze the church.  He claims Serdyukov may have wanted to move it outside the base’s gates to ease access for its parishioners.  He finds the whole situation odd since there are 200 churches on Russian military property, and next year the army will begin training military chaplains.

The Military Elite

Vitaliy Shlykov (photo: Sergey Melikhov)

This is something sure to be overlooked, but it’s fun, interesting, and worth considering.

Every year Russkiy reporter selects its 100-person elite of Russia in various categories — artists, educators, journalists, doctors, businessmen, social activists, scholars, lawyers, bureaucrats, and military men.

The magazine touts its selections as people the country needs to know and listen to.  It calls them authoritative and influential people; they aren’t necessarily the most powerful or widely known.

It’s worth knowing who the magazine believes is influencing military thinking and men in uniform.  You read what many of them write on these very pages.  Picking only ten had to be hard.  One can think of dozens of others.

The article also has a short interview with one of the ten, Vitaliy ShlykovRusskiy reporter asked him what it means to be authoritative in the military, what society thinks of the military, and whether the military influences the authorities.  It’s worth reading.

Without further ado, the military elite are:

  • Makhmut Gareyev
  • Vladimir Dvorkin
  • Vladimir Shamanov
  • Vladimir Popovkin
  • Vitaliy Shlykov
  • Vladimir Bakin
  • Vladimir Boldyrev
  • Mikhail Pogosyan
  • Leonid Ivashov
  • Nikolay Makarov

BMD-4M Update

BMD-4M

An item on pending troop testing of the BMD-4M for VDV . . . .  No, they aren’t in the force yet.  Despite the optimism expressed below, it remains to be seen if the Defense Ministry will actually order the system upon completion of troop testing.  It sounds like the designers and builders have footed the bill — 200 million rubles — for the system’s development thus far.

From this week’s Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer:

“Troop testing of the modernized airborne combat vehicle BMD-4M is being conducted in the course of the 98th Airborne-Assault Division’s command-staff exercise (KShU), which will take place from 23 to 28 August near Ivanovo.”

“During the airdrop of military equipment, seven BMD crews will be inside the combat compartment of these vehicles.  Immediately on landing, the crews will move out to fulfill combat missions on unfamiliar terrain in the notional enemy’s rear area.”

“An airdrop of parachute troops and military equipment from aircraft of Military-Transport Aviation will occur in the course of the divisional KShU, which will be directed by VDV Commander General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov.  In all, it’s planned to airdrop 15 pallets with military equipment, including the BMD-4M.”

“After the completion of troop testing of the modernized combat vehicle, development of which Kurganmashzavod, the Volgograd Tractor Plant and other enterprises of the ‘Tractor Plants’ Concern are engaged in, it will be accepted into the arms inventory of the ‘winged infantry’ and included in the state defense order.”

“Development and production of the BMD-4M is being conducted with the agreement of the Defense Ministry at the concern’s expense.  Expenditures on the first test models amounted to nearly 200 million rubles.”