Tag Archives: Vladimir Popovkin

Not a Fish, But a Crawdad (Part I)

It’s nice when you send yourself on a sabbatical.  But it’s terrible when your first post of the month doesn’t come until the 24th.  Seriously, this author should be flogged for neglecting the reader.  And he isn’t exactly prepared to dive back into frenetic posting either.  Only to hang more text out here now and again.

Serdyukov with Putin (photo: AFP)

This topic and title were stolen from Topwar.ru.  The site picked up on Kommersant’s examination of why Anatoliy Serdyukov was one of only five ministers to retain his post in the first Putin 2.0 government.

Kommersant claims Serdyukov came somewhat close to being retired in December when, at then-Prime Minister Putin’s behest, FSB Director Bortnikov searched out potential replacements.  Bortnikov looked at Rostekh’s Chemezov, Roskosmos’ Popovkin, and Deputy PM and OPK steward Rogozin.  The former pair convinced Putin of the “inexpedience” of making either of them Defense Minister in Serdyukov’s place.  Rogozin reportedly was willing, but, of course, already had a higher-ranking post.

Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov cited Aleksandr Kanshin and a Defense Ministry apparat source to the effect that Putin decided it’d be better to have Serdyukov see the military reform process through to its conclusion.

For its part, Topwar.ru also attributes Serdyukov’s “unsinkability” to a desire to avoid changing leadership in the midst of reform.  It also writes that Anatoliy Eduardovich turned out to be, at least in some ways, the best available and most willing candidate.  Topwar sums Serdyukov’s position up with this adage:

“When there aren’t any fish, even a crawdad is a fish.”

But Anatoliy Rak isn’t likely to replace Taburetkin as a nickname for the Defense Minister.

The most interesting part of Topwar’s account, however, may be the large number of commentaries, which we’ll look at in part II of this post.

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.

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.

Naginskiy at Spetsstroy

The dust’s settled a bit on this story . . . in a 22 April decree, President Medvedev replaced Nikolay Abroskin as Director of the Federal Agency for Special Construction (Spetsstroy), putting Deputy Defense Minister Grigoriy Naginskiy in Abroskin’s place.

Grigoriy Naginskiy

What does the change at the top of this large, government-financed construction firm — nominally under Defense Ministry control — indicate?

Ending Abroskin’s 13-year tenure in the Spetsstroy empire took four years. According to Kompromat.ru, Defense Minister Serdyukov’s wanted Abroskin out from beginning, but, unlike in other personnel situations, it took him a while to win out.

The media says the anti-Abroskin operation was methodical.  On his 60th birthday, four-star Army General Abroskin was dismissed from the Armed Forces, but left in his civilianized post.  This created the convenient precedent to have another civilian succeed him.  Then Medvedev dismissed Abroskin’s long-time deputies and allies. 

According to Kommersant, Spetsstroy’s annual collegium in late March was a solemn affair, devoted mainly to talk about order, discipline, and anticorruption efforts.  But the Main Military Prosecutor wouldn’t tell Kommersant whether it was investigating Abroskin or anyone else at Spetsstroy.  Then the final stroke on Abroskin came three weeks later.

Spetsstroy’s a semi-militarized agency with ranks and, until this spring, conscripts, under formal Defense Ministry control, but traditionally and generally acting as an independent federal agency.  As its name suggests, Spetsstroy is responsible for special government construction projects – in the Soviet and Russian past, it built secret industrial, defense, and specialized facilities, but has also built more mundane military housing, bases, garrisons, road, and electrical power projects.  It also builds major state infrastructure like hydroelectric stations, dams, and bridges. 

Most of Spetsstroy’s work is no longer for the Defense Ministry.  Kommersant says only 26 percent of its 2010 work was for the Defense Ministry.  A Defense Ministry official told Vedomosti the territorial divisions of Spetsstroy, in particular, work essentially like private construction firms and contractors.  Kompromat put its 2009 revenue at 67.7 billion rubles, making it a large company, even a market leader, by Russian standards.

Its most recent controversy revolves around the alleged “Putin palace” on the Black Sea.  According to Newsru.com and other media outlets, Spetsstroy is building a billion-dollar residence for Prime Minister Putin’s personal use.  The money for the elaborate Italianate mansion allegedly came from Putin’s rich business cronies.

Now about Naginskiy . . . you remember his arrival at the Defense Ministry in early 2010 to be Serdyukov’s deputy for housing and construction.  The 52-year-old Piter native’s a construction magnate who got rich renovating nuclear power plants, and then entered politics.  He joined United Russia in 2002, and served in the Leningrad Oblast assembly before representing his region in the Federation Council.

According to Forbes, he’s the richest official in the Defense Ministry, but he’s only 45th on the list of millionaires in government service.  His family income was over 100 million rubles in 2009.  Finans places him as the 163rd richest Russian. 

But Argumenty nedeli makes the point Naginskiy didn’t exactly cover himself with glory while directing military housing acquisition.  An unnamed Defense Ministry official tells Argumenty:

“The state program to provide housing to all officers and retirees is 15-20 percent complete.  Billions have been absorbed, but more and more are needed.  Deputy Minister Naginskiy, who directed it [military housing] last year, during construction site visits by the president and prime minister vowed and swore that everything would be done on time.  Now instead of the planned 2011 when they promised to provide housing, the authorities are forced to talk about the end of 2013.”

Recall also that Naginskiy went without portfolio starting in mid-2010, and his colleague Deputy Minister Shevtsova found housing in her lap.

All the good journalistic coverage of the Spetsstroy story agrees on one, well two, things.  Getting rid of Abroskin was all about controlling an agency that was too independent and, more importantly, controlling its money.  As Kompromat concludes, it’s natural for Serdyukov to want his man to have his hands on these large “financial flows.”  Kompromat suggested Serdyukov may have also had his eye on selling some of Spetsstroy’s expensive Moscow real estate. 

But this isn’t all there is to the story . . .

  • Argumenty makes the point that Serdyukov has holes in his top management team.  Six months without a main finance officer has left the Defense Ministry behind on placing armaments contracts (again threatening a bad year for GOZ fulfillment).  And now Serdyukov’s lost First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin to Roskosmos.  Popovkin’s replacement will be a huge story.  Even if Shevtsova has the housing issue, Serdyukov absolutely has to replace Chistova and Popovkin.  And Nezavisimaya gazeta suggests Serdyukov will soon appoint a new deputy primarily responsible for establishing aerospace defense (VKO).
  • Ruslan Pukhov tells Vedomosti the whole situation proves Serdyukov still has carte blanche from the country’s leadership, and NG claims Serdyukov’s political position has never been stronger.
  • Kommersant makes a point of saying that Abroskin doesn’t appear on the list of Russia’s richest bureaucrats, suggesting of course that this career serviceman might have amassed a fortune, but can’t report it because it was obtained through graft.  Perhaps the paper’s larger point is that appointing a wealthy executive from a private firm is the only chance for avoiding corruption in a high-level post.

Popovkin to Roskosmos?

Vladimir Popovkin (photo: Sobakidendy-news.ru)

Friday Marker.ru reported rumors from its sources saying First Deputy Defense Minister, and GPV 2011-2020 architect, Vladimir Popovkin will relieve Anatoliy Perminov as Director of Roskosmos.  This is interesting because it supposedly features a little tandem tension between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.

Marker.ru’s Ivan Cheberko writes that Perminov will resign at “his own request,” and become a presidential adviser for space issues.  For his part, Popovkin had hoped to replace Sergey Ivanov as Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for the defense-industrial sector.  But Medvedev and Putin couldn’t agree on Ivanov’s fate, according to Cheberko’s report, and they proposed that Popovkin should head Roskosmos.

A source close to Perminov told Cheberko the Popovkin decision was made last week:

“The president and prime minister couldn’t determine Ivanov’s future, and they proposed Popovkin to head Roskosmos.  The Defense Minister has already signed the corresponding paperwork.”

Cheberko’s two independent missile-space sector sources say there have been three candidates for the Roskosmos job — Popovkin, Popovkin ally and deputy General-Lieutenant Oleg Frolov, and Roskosmos Deputy Director Vitaliy Davydov.  Frolov reportedly would have gotten the job if Popovkin took Ivanov’s spot.  Roskosmos rank-and-file lobbied for Davydov in hopes of avoiding changes Popovkin would make.  His views diverge from those of the agency’s current leadership, and he’s expected to make many personnel and organizational changes.  Among other things, Cheberko highlights Popovkin’s strong support for a new liquid-fueled heavy ICBM versus missile designer Yuriy Solomonov’s vocal public opposition to such a plan.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cheberko only dug so deep.  There’s a bit more to this story.

On the eve of the 18 March expanded collegium, Sergey Ivanov told the Federation Council the Defense Ministry was to blame for late placement of the State Defense Order (Гособоронзаказ, ГОЗ, or GOZ) this year.  Even prior, he had lots of sharp public criticism for Perminov, Roskosmos, and their failures.  Of course, Ivanov himself has long suffered at Putin’s hands over GLONASS, so he’s just letting stuff roll downhill, so to speak.

In his collegium speech, President Medvedev railed about problems with the GOZ last year, and demanded a “post-flight debriefing” to identify which industry and state officials are to blame.

Prime Minister Putin followed the collegium with a March 21 government session on the defense order at the Votkinsk missile plant.  Ivanov and Perminov were there, and probably Popovkin too.  The latter was very much on the defensive afterwards, asserting that GOZ-2010 was fulfilled “on the whole.”  And he blamed last summer’s heat wave and forest fires for disrupting defense production.

So where’s it leave us?

As Marker.ru implies, it appears Popovkin’s position isn’t too strong, and he could be headed out of the Defense Ministry after only 8 months on the job.  This would take away one of the louder proponents of buying arms and equipment abroad if necessary.  It begs the question who replaces Popovkin, and what does it mean.  Possibly someone closer to Serdyukov.  Never known for his skill as a political infighter, Sergey Ivanov actually comes out of this looking like a semi-adept bureaucratic warrior.  It’s interesting to imagine Medvedev and Putin discussing Ivanov’s fate when he was once thought the frontrunner in Operation Successor 2008.

Symbol of How Things Work (or Don’t)

Is Perminov About to Surrender This Chair?

Your author couldn’t be accused of following military space issues and news too closely.  However, this piece from Ogonek [Огонёк] is pretty compelling stuff,  examining whether Anatoliy Perminov has been, or is about to be, “knocked out of orbit” as Chief of Roskosmos.

Ogonek is part of Kommersant, and has the same standards of quality and independence.  Much of what the article highlights is interesting and significant beyond the confines of space.  It is more widely illustrative of the way things work, or don’t, in Russia generally.  It makes Perminov sound somewhat symbolic of this.

Author Vladimir Tikhomirov begins by concluding the loss of four satellites recently isn’t the only reason for retiring Perminov, but Tikhomirov wants to look at the man and why he causes such controversy in the upper echelons of power.

As recently as 11 March, Perminov said his bosses will let him know when his time is up, but presumably they haven’t yet.  RIA Novosti also apparently published word from a “Kremlin source” who said Perminov’s contract won’t be renewed in April.  It’s said the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight on 12 April might be celebrated with someone else heading Russia’s space agency.

Tikhomirov explores who Perminov is . . . a missile-general trained early to keep his mouth shut . . . to keep the dirt inside the RVSN or military izba . . . he doesn’t talk about extraneous or personal matters.  Born in Kirov Oblast in 1945, his father died early and he worked on a collective farm.  He was excited by Gagarin’s flight and practically his entire class went to military schools . . . he went to the Perm Higher Military Command-Engineering School.  He went from missile unit to missile unit with his wife and son.  The Soviet collapse found him finishing up at the General Staff Academy, and he became Chief of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.  When Sergey Ivanov created Space Troops in 2001, Perminov became their first commander.  President Putin put him in charge of the entire space sector in 2004.

Then Tikhomirov talks about Roskosmos and Perminov’s predecessor.  In 1992, President Yeltsin civilianized a lot of the space industry, and he put Yuriy Koptev — a missile and rocket builder — in charge.  Koptev held his seat for 12 years until Putin became dissatisfied that Russia hadn’t built a single new satellite in 10 years (1994-2004).  Putin was upset when Roskosmos couldn’t support ground operations in Chechnya, and also when plans for the Angara rocket (that was supposed to free Russia from depending on Baykonur) didn’t pan out.

Perminov studied Koptev’s failures, and he pushed through a Federal Targeted Program (FTsP) on Space, 2006-2015.  A steady military hand was supposed to right things messed by civilians like Koptev, and others like RKK Energiya Director Nikolay Sevastyanov who reportedly dreamed of space shuttles, moon bases, and “air launching” rockets from An-124s.  Space research was pushed to the back.  It wasn’t Perminov’s style to risk such things.

Tikhomirov looks at Perminov’s record on fulfilling the Space FTsP.  Eleven of 13 planned fixed comms and broadcasting satellites are in orbit.  Under him, Roskosmos pretty much fulfilled its plan for mobile comms and satellite search-and-rescue, but various scientific launches were pushed off.  Tikhomirov gives him credit for making successful space launch deals for the Europeans and Americans.  Using Soyuz to ferry astronauts to the ISS brought in $753 million.

Then Tikhomirov points out the obvious.  Perminov’s other difficulties and failings are minor compared with GLONASS, which he’s described as Russian cosmonautics’ main achievement over the past 30 years.  Tikhomirov says the constellation has 22 functioning satellites with four in technical reserve and the last 3 launched at the bottom of the Pacific along with the Proton launch vehicle that carried them.  The Proton failure, says Tikhomirov, was especially embarrassing; it broke President Medvedev’s Poslaniye promise to have a fully functioning GLONASS grouping before the end of 2010.  And that’s when the rumors of Perminov’s imminent retirement started.

This wasn’t the first time for this rumor.  There was talk of his retirement in 2006 when there were launch failures and an out-of-order satellite cut central TV broadcasting to the Russian Far East.  These were losses costing billions of dollars.  But the Kremlin cut off the rumors; Perminov was needed.  Today, however, Tikhomirov says the Kremlin is sending different signals.

He says Medvedev’s assistant Sergey Prikhodko basically accused Perminov of failing to appreciate the gravity of the recent space failures.  A Perminov deputy and a chief designer at RKK Energiya were both fired.  Perminov himself got a reprimand.  Medvedev also instructed prosecutors to investigate the state of affairs, and the accounting books, at Roskosmos.

Tikhomirov says Roskosmos blames new products which weren’t tested sufficiently, but some employees say the agency tried to save by using Taiwanese microchips not intended for use in space.

Other interesting things turned up.  As reported elsewhere, Tikhomirov says sons of Roskosmos deputy chiefs are in the business of insuring its satellite launches.  GLONASS’ main designer has sent 40 percent of its state financing to various “pocket” firms.

Tikhomirov says Perminov might have survived all this, but the loss of dual-use Geo-IK-2 may have been the last straw.  And Medvedev recently talked with scientists about their thoughts on outer space research, something Tikhomirov views as a blow to Perminov and the military space priorities he represents.

So who would be the replacement?

Tikhomirov thinks the Kremlin must have a list of candidates . . . some people think First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin, who’s in charge of procuring armaments, he was also Space Troops Commander in his time.  Others say RKK Energiya General Director Vitaliy Lopota.  Still others say none other than Nikolay Sevastyanov — now heading Gazprom Space Systems.  Tikhomirov concludes:

“But all this devolves into one thing:  the new Chief of Roskosmos could be either military or a highly-skilled designer.  But to put the space sector in order, a new Korolev is needed.  Just where can one be gotten?”

Popovkin Details the GPV

Yesterday First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin gave RIA Novosti more details on Russia’s procurement plans under the State Program of Armaments (GPV), 2011-2020.  He said 78-80 percent of the 19-trillion-ruble Armed Forces portion of the GPV will go to procurement.   

Popovkin said Russia plans to develop a new liquid-fueled heavy ICBM to carry up to ten warheads, and having a service life of up to 35 years.  Former RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Andrey Shvaychenko talked about a new liquid heavy as far back as late 2009, and the issue’s been debated in the Russian military press since. 

Popovkin said the Defense Ministry plans to accept the Bulava SLBM and the first two Borey-class SSBNs this year.  There will be 4-5 Bulava launches this year.  Recall to date only 7 of 14 Bulava tests have been successful.  Addressing the missile’s past failures, Popovkin said there were many deviations from the design documentation during production.  He also said Russia plans to build eight SSBNs to carry Bulava by 2020.  He was unclear if this includes the first two Borey-class boats.

Popovkin said work on a new strategic bomber is ongoing, and he claimed a technical design will be complete in 2015.  He said this work isn’t being rushed.

Popovkin told RIA Novosti  the Air Forces will receive more than 600 new aircraft and 1,000 new helicopters by 2020.  In 2011, Su-27SM, Su-30M2, Su-35S, Yak-130, and Su-34 aircraft are to be procured.  More than 100 helicopters, including Mi-26 transports and Mi-28N and Ka-52 combat helicopters will be acquired this year, according to Popovkin. 

Popovkin said a contract for the first ten experimental PAK FA (T-50) aircraft will be signed in 2013, with serial production of 60 aircraft beginning in 2016.

The GPV includes the purchase of ten S-500 air defense systems.  Popovkin said this system will begin testing in 2015, initially with missiles from the S-400.  Fifty-six S-400 units will also be purchased by 2020.  This sounds like seven 8-launcher battalions.   

Popovkin said the GPV will buy 100 ships – including 20 submarines, 35 corvettes, and 15 frigates – for the Navy.  He didn’t specify types for the other 30 ships, and it’s unclear if new SSBNs are included in these numbers.  Popovkin reconfirmed Russia’s plan to buy two and build two Mistral amphibious ships.  Recall also the Black Sea Fleet alone is supposed to get 18 new ships including proyekt 636 diesel-electric submarines, proyekt 11356 and 22350 frigates, and proyekt 11711 LSTs.

Popovkin also mentioned plans to buy a limited number of French FELIN soldier systems, with the intent of Russia producing its own version by 2020.  He looks for it to equal the advertised capabilities of U.S. and German equivalents.