Originally appeared on Izvestia.ru; Translated by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront
Key positions in the Russian Armed Forces will be occupied by veterans of the operations in Syria and other military campaigns
February 23 will see the publication of a decree nominating several high-ranking officers of the Russian Army to new positions. Izvestia was told by sources familiar with the situation in the Ministry of Defense that key positions will be occupied by generals with combat experience in Syria. According to their information, unusual personnel decisions will be made. The most sensational could be the appointment of an Army general to the post of the Navy chief of staff. Sources indicate that promotions will be granted to primarily those commanders who excelled in hot spots. When the document was being prepared, candidates’ participation in campaigns from the first Chechen campaign to the Syria operation was considered, with only specific combat successes being taken into account.
Personnel policy innovations include placing infantry officers into all branches of forces. Thus the second-highest Navy officer may become Lieutenant General Oleg Makarevich, one of the first commander of the famous 42nd Motor Rifle Division fighting in Chechnya. According to Izvestia sources, Oleg Makarevich, who also fought in Syria, is considered for one of two posts: General Staff Deputy Chief of Staff, and the Navy Main Staff Chief. If he is sent to the Navy, it would be the first time in decades when an infantry officer occupied a senior naval post.
It’s worth noting Makarevich is no stranger to the Navy. In 2017 he was the first in the newly created position of Navy Deputy Chief for land and coastal forces. He commanded the coastal component which in recent years was greatly strengthened—right now the Navy includes several Army corps. Moreover, the Navy chief of staff will also be required to command aircraft, submarines, surface ships, and a huge support fleet.
That freed-up position will be filled by Western Military District (MD) chief, Lieutenant General Viktor Astapov. This nomination continues the trend of placing Army officers with combat experience in high-level positions. Astapov also participated in both Chechen campaigns. During his service he passed through every level from platoon commander to division commander in the Airborne Forces. He commanded the 49th Combined Arms Army and served as the deputy commander of the Southern Military District. He was awarded the Order for Bravery and the Order for Combat Merit.
Astapov’s current post will be occupied by the Western Military District deputy commander Lieutenant General Aleksey Zavizyon who led motor rifle units in the second Chechen war. He also commanded the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan and occupied command posts within Russian forces in Syria on several occasions.
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According to Izvestia sources, there will also be personnel changes in the Central Military District command. Thus the district commander, Colonel General Evgeniy Ustinov will become the Airborne Forces chief of staff. In spite of his age (he’s already 58), Ustinov is considered one of the most promising troop leaders of the Russian Army. Ustinov participated in the majority of combat operations of the Soviet era and also in the “five day war” with Georgia. Ustinov served in the peacekeeping contingent in former Yugoslavia, and was assigned to Syria in 2016 and 2017, participating in the planning of the second liberation of Palmyra. He is a recipient of seven high state decorations.
Ustinov’s place will be taken by the Southern MD chief of staff Lieutenant General Mikhail Teplinskiy, one of the most authoritative Russian troop leaders. During the assault on Groznyy on January 1 1995 he was sent at the head of a reconnaissance company to assist the 131st Maikop Brigade. His unit broke into the city center and seized one of the high rises. Then it spent several days repelling attacks in full encirclement, killing 44 enemy fighters. Teplinskiy’s company did not suffer a single casualty. This fight is now studied by Airborne Forces officers as an example of successful actions in encirclement. Teplinskiy was granted the Hero of Russia award in recognition of his urban warfare success, and he has also been awarded the orders for Bravery and Kutuzov, as well as the Medal of Courage. Teplinskiy also distinguished himself in Syria—his subordinates call him a flawless combat machine.
Moscow, May 25, 1995. Senior Lieutenant Mikhail Yuryevich Teplinskiy while receiving the Hero of Russia award for heroism and bravery while carrying out a special mission, from the hands of RF President Boris Yeltsin.
The chief of staff of Southern MD position will be filled by another paratrooper, the current commander of the 8th Army, Lieutenant General Sergey Kuzovlev. He fought in both Chechen wars, and in March 2017 he was nominated to command the newly reactivated 8th Guards Army in Novocherkassk.
According to Izvestia sources, the Eastern MD chief of staff will be replaced too. Lieutenant General Aleksandr Chayko, who currently fills that post, will become the first deputy chief of the General Staff Academy. In the past he has commanded units starting with a reconnaissance platoon and ending with Russia’s sole tank army. Chayko was the first chief of staff of the Russian group of forces in Syria. In April 2017 he was nominated for the post of chief of staff and the first deputy commander of the Eastern MD.
His current post will be filled by the deputy Ground Forces commander, Lieutenant General Sergey Kuralenko. He carried out operations in Syria on several occasions, and since 2016 he’s been leading the Coordinating Center in Syria working on reconciliation.
“The Ministry of Defense is currently seeking to ensure as many officers and generals obtain combat experience in Syria”, noted Viktor Murakhovskiy, the chief editor of Motherland’s Arsenal journal. “Nearly 100% of tactical and operational-level aviation flight crews have carried out operations over Syria. Nearly the same proportion of army regiment and brigade commanders did as well. Upon return they introduce combat experience into their units, which changes the face of the armed forces. We see organizational changes, and improved combat training.
Successes achieved in operational art on the battlefield are the only objective way to assess equipment and personnel. This was stated on more than one occasion by the president, the minister of defense, the General Staff chief, Murakhovskiy reminded.
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