Generals, colonels prefer to leave army but stay in Moscow

“Defiant” officers and commanders are leaving the Russian forces. They prefer to lose privileges to avoid transfer from the capital to remote provinces. In the coming months, the central office of the Ministry of Defense may lose more than 150 senior and top officers, the government-published daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta said on Tuesday.

Over 160 generals and colonels of the Defense Ministry, the General Staff, and the central directorates of the Defense Ministry have refused to obey the decision of the central certification committee, headed by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and move from Moscow to other Russian regions within the framework of the large-scale scheduled personnel rotation in the Armed Forces, which began earlier this year.

The minister put all the “refuseniks” on a list of early dismissals from the armed forces, which would automatically deprive them of their right to a good military pension and social benefits.

Whereas for the dismissal of colonels Serdyukov’s order would be enough, the generals’ fate will be decided by President Dmitry Medvedev in person. Last week he dismissed from the army the deputy commander of the ground forces, Lieutenant-General Sergei Skokov. Among other “refuseniks” is the head of the electronic warfare department of the General Staff, Major-General Oleg Ivanov. He also refused to change the place of service and be transferred to another location to prefer early retirement.

The state secretary of the Defense Ministry, Nikolai Pankov, is quoted by the daily as saying that these generals were not even faced with the risk of leaving Moscow. Skokov and Ivanov had been offered other command positions in the capital. For example, at the Military Academy of the General Staff. But even such a rotation did not suit the generals. The minimum that Moscow colonels and generals were offered was a command post at a large military unit, and the maximum, an equivalent, if not a higher position, at the headquarters of a military district or of a fleet.

The chief of the General Staff, Nikolai Makarov, explains that over the past fifteen years in the Armed Forces there has been formed a whole cohort of officers who, without leaving the capital, walked up the career ladder all the way from lieutenant to general. They do not know the daily military routine, they are unable to organize training, but they have become firmly settled in Moscow and “uprooting” them is a great problem.

Makarov recalled that when the question of the transfer of Moscow district staff officers to Siberia was raised, 80 percent of the colonels and generals at one of the military district’s departments at once tabled resignation statements. They refused to leave the capital under any circumstances.

The chairman of the All-Russia Union of Military, Oleg Shvedkov, who is quoted by the online newspaper Vzglyad, has a mixed attitude to the affair.

“As a human being I feel sympathy for each of those people: all his life he spent wandering from garrison to garrison, then he finally came to Moscow and settled here, he finally got housing, the wife has a good job, children are in universities, and then suddenly he is told to go some place in the Far East for three years. And, bearing in mind how quickly our laws regarding the military change, it is not clear what rules of providing house there will be in three years’ time, he may well be told to stay there. But on the other hand, when they took the oath, they swore to obey the orders of their commanders and superiors. That is why there remains only one option – to resign.”

Shvedkov pointed out that far from all officers facing the prospect of transfer tender retirement reports. “Many people agree, there is no place for them to go,” he concluded.

The news of the dismissal of several top generals arrived in early July. At first the media called the generals ‘rebels’, and with reliance on their own sources linked their dismissals with protests against the reforms undertaken by the head of the General Staff. Then it became known that some of them had refused to change their place of service within the framework of scheduled three-year rotation.

Such dismissals are usually painful and are often later presented as ‘special attitude’ to the ongoing reforms in the army, said Shvedkov.

Over the more than three years civil Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has been in office, there have been 44 cases in which senior officers were dismissed from 34 posts. Most fruitful in this sense was 2007, the first year of Serdyukov at his current position. Sixteen generals and admirals were dismissed then, and in 2008, another eleven senior military officials.

Some generals resigned for health reasons, and others, due to the reluctance to change their place of service. Some generals said goodbye to their posts for breaching such clauses of the contract as physical fitness.

There have been reductions in the military districts and fleets. The headquarters of the military district, originally numbering 500-700 officers, was reduced to 300.

Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s defense committee Mikhail Babich in January attributed the resignation of the generals to their criticism of the military reform, which, in their opinion, is harmful to the army. A source in the Defense Ministry told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta at about the same time that “Anatoly Serdyukov’s personnel policy is tough, but logical and predictable. Now the minister has by his side only the people who share his views on the military reform.”

MOSCOW, September 6

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