Category Archives: Military Leadership

So It’s Korobov

On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry announced that General-Lieutenant Igor Valentinovich Korobov (KOR-uh-buv) is the new chief of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.

General-Lieutenant Igor Korobov

General-Lieutenant Igor Korobov

Mil.ru carried a sparse press release.

News agencies didn’t have much beyond that.  But TASS provided an official photo of Defense Minister Shoygu and Korobov with the GRU standard.

Shoygu and Korobov

Shoygu and Korobov

It’s clear General-Lieutenant Korobov is no spring chicken.  He’s experienced.  And he’s a career (кадровый) intelligence officer.

We don’t know how long he will head the GRU or when the next transition will occur.  Few can say what (if any) difference it makes who’s in charge.  Fears an outsider from a rival “power” ministry or intelligence service would take over the GRU were apparently exaggerated.

TASS, and a couple other press services, carried one additional note.  They reported Korobov was previously first deputy chief, or second-in-command, of the GRU and chief of strategic intelligence.

The chief of strategic intelligence is in charge of collection, fusion, and reporting of intelligence on military threats to the security and survival of the Russian Federation.  But it’s like one word is so implicit, or regarded as so secret, that it’s left out — agent.  Chief of strategic agent intelligence.

So Korobov managed all GRU human intelligence (HUMINT) collection resources, except its most critical and productive “illegals” and their agents which the Chief of the GRU personally controls, according to Viktor Suvorov (Vladimir Rezun).

While it has capable technical intelligence-gathering means, the GRU relies on HUMINT.  It is focused on information collected from agent operations abroad.  That’s its tradition and its forte.

At its best, Soviet / Russian HUMINT means GRU “illegal” Richard Sorge practically handing Stalin the date of Hitler’s invasion of the USSR months before Operation Barbarossa began.  At its worst, Stalin, for whatever reason, ignoring Sorge’s information.

At its best, it means the USSR defeating the U.S. in just one facet of the Cold War — espionage.  At its worst, GRU officers in the 1990s inventing agents and reports to satisfy their bosses.

We may not learn much about General-Lieutenant Korobov, and it really doesn’t matter.  There’s a new first deputy chief of the GRU and chief of strategic agent intelligence reporting to Korobov now.  Just another turn of the personnel wheel.

What matters more is what it says about Russian intelligence culture.  The Kremlin and the Defense Ministry have never abandoned Soviet (perhaps historically Russian) paranoid mirror-imaging about their enemies.  They believe their enemies have secret diabolical plans to destroy them because they have such plans for their enemies.  Of course, these plans are so secret that no satellite could ever photograph, detect, or eavesdrop on them.  They can only be discovered by human agents, hence the HUMINT emphasis.

Failure to ferret out these hostile plans doesn’t mean they don’t exist; it only means the officers in charge have failed.

And whatever information agents deliver to their handlers, and handlers send back to headquarters, and headquarters prepares and presents to the leadership better fit the latter’s predilections.  Headquarters probably wouldn’t even put forward a story that didn’t track with the leadership’s mindset.

Still Awaiting New GRU Chief

On 13 January, Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov wrote that late GRU Chief General-Colonel Igor Sergun’s successor will be one of the military intelligence directorate’s current deputy chiefs:  Vyacheslav Kondrashov, Sergey Gizunov, Igor Lelin, or Igor Korobov.

General-Lieutenant Vyacheslav Viktorovich Kondrashov reportedly headed a Russian delegation that went to Cairo on an arms sales mission in late 2013.  He is likely a Middle East specialist and Arabic linguist.  He’s an old hand at the GRU headquarters.  It looks like he put on his first star over 20 years ago.  He seems like a timely choice from the GRU’s perspective, but he might not serve much longer.

Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov is probably a computer expert or mathematician from the GRU SIGINT apparatus.  He was chief of the Moscow-based 85th Main Center of Special Service which deciphers foreign military communications.  He’d be an unusual pick for an intelligence service that likes experienced field operators at the top.

General-Major (???) Igor Viktorovich Lelin was Russian military attache to Estonia and served for a time as deputy chief of the Defense Ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate (GUK).  He only returned to the GRU in 2014.  Lelin doesn’t seem to have much to recommend him, at least based on what little is known of his background.

Igor Korobov seems to have no information in the public domain.  Safronov’s sources call him a “serious person” and the most probable candidate to take Sergun’s chair.  Although it’s ironic, one has to agree that the lack of data on Korobov makes it utterly impossible to dismiss him as a strong possibility.

According to Safronov, the GRU bureaucracy feared having an outside chief (from the FSO or SVR) imposed upon it following Sergun’s untimely death from a heart attack in the Moscow suburbs on 3 January.  Speculation focused on one former presidential bodyguard named Aleksey Dyumin who quickly turned up as a deputy minister of defense.  So the worry may have passed.  The Genshtab and Defense Ministry now believe the PA will settle on an insider to keep continuity in this important agency.

Ten days ago an ukaz indicating President Putin’s choice was expected “soon,” but no sign of it yet.

Safronov makes the point that the GRU has been busy because of Russia’s operation in Syria.  Its IMINT and SIGINT systems, not to mention its human agent networks, have been working overtime to support Russian military and political decisionmakers.  The GRU also played a critical part in Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Just as post-script, we’ve seen in the last day the Financial Times report that Sergun visited Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to relay Putin’s request that he consider stepping down.  Of course, the Kremlin denied it, but remember Putin said earlier this month that giving Bashar asylum would be easier than Edward Snowden.

Army Commanders

General-Major Aleksandr Chayko

General-Major Aleksandr Chayko

Time to update the leadership lineup for Russia’s army-level ground formations.

Here’s the rundown of armies, headquarters, MD/OSK, and commanders:

1st TA…Bakovka…Western…General-Major Aleksandr Chayko.

6th CAA…Agalatovo…Western…General-Major Andrey Kuzmenko.

20th CAA…Voronezh…Western…General-Major Sergey Kuzovlev.

49th CAA…Stavropol…Southern…General-Major Sergey Sevryukov.

58th CAA…Vladikavkaz…Southern…General-Lieutenant Andrey Gurulev.

2nd CAA…Samara…Central…General-Major Igor Seritskiy.

41st CAA…Novosibirsk…Central…General-Lieutenant Khasan Kaloyev.

36th CAA…Ulan Ude…Eastern…General-Major Dmitriy Kovalenko.

29th CAA…Chita…Eastern…General-Major Aleksey Avdeyev.

35th CAA…Belogorsk…Eastern…General-Lieutenant Sergey Solomatin.

5th CAA…Ussuriysk…Eastern…General-Lieutenant Aleksey Salmin.

The newly organized 1st TA has General-Major Chayko in command.  He previously commanded the 20th CAA.

Four commanders turned over since last check.  General-Major Kuzmenko is new to the 6th CAA.  General-Major Kuzovlev, who reportedly commanded Russian fighters in Lugansk, is reorganizing the 20th CAA on the Ukrainian border. General-Major Kovalenko now commands the 36th CAA and General-Major Avdeyev the 29th CAA.

Where have former commanders gone?

General-Lieutenant Sergey Kuralenko

General-Lieutenant Sergey Kuralenko

General-Lieutenant Sergey Kuralenko, late of the 6th CAA, served in Moscow’s Baghdad anti-IS “information center,” and became a deputy commander of the Western MD in December.  He had already commanded the 49th CAA.  He seems destined to rise higher.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Lapin is now chief of staff, first deputy commander in the Eastern MD.

General-Lieutenant Mikhail Teplinskiy departed the 36th CAA for an unspecified post in the Southern MD.

General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Romanchuk is the Russia’s representative to the Joint Control and Coordination Center in eastern Ukraine.

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Ustinov and General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Zhuravlev were both, at last word, deputy commanders of the Central MD.

General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov is perhaps the fastest burner of recent army commanders.  After a brief stint as GOU Chief, he moved quickly to command the Western MD.

General-Colonel Vasiliy Tonkoshkurov is now GOMU Chief.

General-Lieutenant Vladimir Tsilko is a deputy commander of the Eastern MD.

General-Colonel Andrey Serdyukov is chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Southern MD.

General-Lieutenant Igor Turchenyuk is a deputy commander in the Southern MD.  He commanded the invasion of Crimea, and is on the U.S. list of sanctioned Russian individuals.

Constitution Day Promotion List

President Vladimir Putin signed out his military promotion list on the eve of Constitution Day.  It included 1 four-, 1 three-, 8 two-, and 13 one-star promotions along with 2 one-star rear-admiral promotions.

KZ published Putin’s decree here.  The updated list of general and flag officer promotions from this blog is, as always, available here.

Defense Minister Shoygu’s long-time former MChS assistant Pavel Popov put on army general.  He reportedly has responsibility for MOD innovation policy and robotics, inter alia.

Among the promoted were:

  • The chief of GOMU and a deputy chief of the GOU;
  • One army and one deputy army commander;
  • A military district-level air and air defense commander;
  • One VDV division commander;
  • A nuclear-powered submarine diviziya commander;
  • Chiefs of Missile Troops and Artillery, and Electronic Warfare Troops;
  • Two chiefs of regional nuclear weapons storage facilities, i.e. 12th GUMO types.

Particularly interesting cases merit a few more words.

Newly-minted General-Lieutenant Aleksey Gennadyevich Dyumin is apparently the same Colonel Dyumin who served in Putin’s Presidential Security Service, i.e. his immediate bodyguard detail.  According to Vek, he travels, tangentially perhaps, in Putin’s circle of close associates.  He even plays first-team goalie for the president’s hockey squad, according to Forbes.  Dyumin reportedly now occupies the post of deputy chief of the GRU.

Putin's First Five (photo: Forbes)

Putin’s First Five (photo: Forbes)

A variety of Russian social media report that General-Major Konstantin Stepanishchev was leading troops from his 23th Motorized Rifle Brigade fighting for the pro-Russian militia in Lugansk early this year when he was hit by a Grad missile, losing both of his legs.  Six of his boys were killed.

General-Major Gennadiy Anashkin won his Hero of the Russian Federation award in 2008 for leading the Pskov-based 104th Air-Assault Regiment in combat in Tskhinvali.

MOD Collegium on 2015

Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a year-ending expanded meeting of the MOD Collegium.  Below are highlights from his speech, and from Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s.  Putin also met separately with Russia’s Military District (MD) commanders, but no transcript was made available.

Putin Addresses the Expanded Meeting (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin Addresses the Expanded Meeting (photo: Kremlin.ru)

According to Kremlin.ru, Putin told the Collegium that Russia’s intervention in Syria was prompted not by “incomprehensible abstract geopolitical interests,” nor by the “desire to train [military forces] and test new weapons systems,” although he called the latter “important.”  Rather Putin insisted Russian operations in Syria aim to stop the immediate threat ISIL terrorists pose to the Russian Federation.

Putin told his audience Russian assistance has enabled Damascus to take the offensive in several regions.  As far as other claims of success, the Supreme CINC said only:

“. . . the systematic employment of the forces of the VKS [Aerospace Forces] and Navy, and the use of the newest highly-accurate weapons systems has enabled us to deliver serious damage to the infrastructure of the terrorists, and therefore qualitatively change the situation in Syria.”

He vowed to protect Russian troops saying, “Any targets threatening the Russian grouping or our ground infrastructure will be destroyed immediately.”

Putin then turned to Russian Armed Forces developments and training.  He urged the military not to consider this year’s wartime preparation training by civilian authorities in 14 Russian Federation subjects to be a “secondary” mission.  He mentioned five (not surprising) points of emphasis about this year and next:

  • The updated five-year defense plan (2016-2020);
  • Rearmament and the effective use of the budget;
  • Strategic nuclear forces and aerospace defense;
  • Increasing the intensity of operational and tactical training;
  • Greater cooperation with allies, the CSTO in particular.

Again, he paused to note the need to eliminate shortcomings in territorial defense training in Russia’s regions.

Before turning the mic over to Shoygu, the president stated that the MOD has provided permanent or service housing to 146,000 servicemen over the last four years.

Defense Minister Shoygu outlined first the threat to Russia from an expanding NATO, then from ISIL.  He made the following significant points about 2015:

  • Russia’s armed forces are manned at 92 percent of their authorized level, including 352,000 contractees (i.e. more than the number of conscripts).
  • Six RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) regiments were put into service.
  • The share of modern armaments in the RVSN is 51 percent.
  • Two Tu-160, three Tu-95MS, and five Tu-22M3 bombers were modernized.
  • SSBNs carry 56 percent modern weapons.
  • Overall, Russian strategic forces are 55 percent modern.
  • Eight new brigades of various types were formed in the Ground Troops.
  • The Ground Troops acquired 1,772 tanks and armored vehicles, 148 missile and artillery systems, 2,292 vehicles, and two brigade sets of Iskander-M.
  • Ground Troops’ arms and equipment are 35 percent modern.
  • The VKS acquired 243 aircraft of various types, 90 SAM and 208 radar systems.
  • The VKS are 52 percent modern.
  • The VKS operate 1,720 UAV systems against only 180 in 2011.
  • The Navy received two submarines and eight surface ships.
  • The Navy’s modern equipment constitutes 39 percent of its inventory.
  • The VDV’s modern arms are 41 percent of its total.
  • Overall, the armed forces now have 47 percent modern weapons and other equipment, surpassing the goal of 30 percent by 2015.
  • The in-service rate of equipment is 89 percent.
  • There were nine candidates for every seat in MOD VVUZy this year.

Shoygu’s annual report contained many other details summarizing the MOD’s activities this year.

In 2016, he expects the following:

  • Steps to strengthen groupings in the western, south-western, and Arctic strategic directions.
  • Five RVSN missile regiments will go on duty with modern missiles.
  • Two Tu-160 and seven Tu-95MS bombers will be modernized.
  • Two brigade sets each of Iskander-M and Tornado-S MLRS, and one of Buk-3M SAMs will reach the Ground Troops.
  • Six battalions will receive new tanks and BMPs.
  • VKS and Navy will get more than 200 new or modernized aircraft.
  • Five regiments will receive S-400 SAMs.
  • Three Voronezh-DM and Voronezh-M radars will enter service.
  • The Navy will get two submarines and seven surface ships.
  • The armed forces will conduct strategic CSX Kavkaz-2016.

The reader may wish to look back to this 2014 year-ender to make some year-on-year comparisons.

Turning to Putin’s meeting with his top regional commanders, we don’t know what was discussed, but it’s a good pic and a chance to update the lineup and face recce.

Putin's Meeting with MD Commanders (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin’s Meeting with MD Commanders (photo: Kremlin.ru)

From the extreme left around the table with Putin in the center, attendees included Unified Strategic Command North Commander Admiral Vladimir Korolev, Southern MD Commander General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin, Eastern MD Commander General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin, Defense Minister Shoygu, Putin, General Staff Chief Army General Valeriy Gerasimov, Central MD Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy, and new Western MD Commander General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov.

Who’s Fighting in the Donbass?

Various media sources late this week reported that Kyiv’s SBU sent the United States a 30-page report detailing Russia’s role in fighting in the Donbass.

The report indicates that militia fighters in the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic are led by Russian Army general-majors Oleg Tsekov, Sergey Kuzovlev, and Roman Shadrin.  In the Donetsk People’s Republic, general-majors Valeriy Solodchuk and Aleksey Zavizon reportedly lead the ethnic Russian militiamen. Russian Colonel Anatoliy Barankevich is in charge of combat training.

Sergey Kuzovlev

Sergey Kuzovlev

Roman Shadrin

Roman Shadrin

The Ukrainian report claims 15 Russian battalion tactical groups — about 9,000 men — are fighting in eastern Ukraine.  Unnamed Washington sources say this confirms what U.S. intelligence agencies believed.  But, as recently as his 26 June conversation with President Obama, President Putin insisted there are no Russian troops in Luhansk or Donetsk.

Who are the Russian officers identified by name?

  • Oleg Tsekov commands the Northern Fleet’s 200th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade — it’s a long way from eastern Ukraine, but his troops wouldn’t be easily missed like forces in the Southern MD. He once served under Southern MD Commander, General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin.
  • Sergey Kuzovlev was, at last report, chief of staff of the Southern MD’s 58th CAA. He’s known by the call sign Tambov. He fought in both Chechen campaigns, and he commanded the 18th IMRB in Khankala before his current staff assignment.
  • Roman Shadrin is another Chechen vet, Hero of Russia, and Ural Cossack activist turned United Russia politician.  He did time with the MVD VV and served with Russian “peacekeeping” forces in South Ossetia.
  • Valeriy Solodchuk commands the VDV’s 7th Air-Assault Division in Novorossiysk.  He was previously chief of staff for the 98th Airborne Division and commanded its 217th Parachute Regiment.
  • Aleksey Zavizon is deputy commander of the 41st CAA in the Central MD.  Prior to that, he commanded the 136th IMRB in Dagestan and the 201st MB in Tajikistan.  He was also chief of staff, deputy commander for the 4th (Kantemir) Tank Division.
  • Anatoliy Barankevich served widely in the Soviet Army and fought in both Chechen wars before retiring in 2004.  He went to South Ossetia, became its defense minister, and directed the defense of Tskhinvali during the August 2008 five-day war with Georgia.  He fell out with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity and presumably resumed his free-agent status.
Valeriy Solodchuk

Valeriy Solodchuk

Aleksey Zavizon

Aleksey Zavizon

Anatoliy Barankevich

Anatoliy Barankevich

It would be an understatement to say these six Russian military men have a good deal of experience — command experience, combat experience, Caucasus experience.  They represent a particular subset of Russian commanders who’ve long served on the country’s borders and in its hinterlands.  They seem like men with little compunction when it comes to pushing Russia’s sway outward over non-Russians.

Day of Russia Promotion List

On the eve of the Russia Day holiday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree promoting 29 senior MOD officers:  2 to three-star general-colonel, 5 to two-star general-lieutenant and vice-admiral, and the balance to one-star general-major.

The three-star promotions included Andrey Kartapolov, Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate and Andrey Serdyukov, Deputy Commander, Southern MD.  Both were quick promotes with only three and two years respectively at their former rank.

The two-star promotions included GOMU First Deputy Chief Yevgeniy Burdinskiy, Deputy Commander of the Eastern MD for Material-Technical Support Anatoliy Lbov, Deputy CINC of the Navy for Armaments Viktor Bursuk, Northern Fleet Commander of Submarine Forces Aleksandr Moiseyev, and Baltic Fleet Chief of Staff Sergey Popov.

Other promotees included:

  • two RVSN missile division commanders (both have the RS-24 / Yars ICBM in their formations);
  • a new commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East;
  • one motorized rifle brigade commander;
  • deputy commanders for material-technical support in several services and branches;
  • chiefs, deputy chiefs, or department heads for several military-educational institutions;
  • the strategic nuclear forces directorate chief in the NTsUO.

You’ll find the updated promotion list here.