BATTLE OF ADMIRALS REACHES CLIMAX

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The scandal involving Black Sea Fleet Commander Admiral Vladimir Komoedov and Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, which lasted for more than a month, reached its climax. The Central Military Medical Commission of the Defense Ministry confirmed the formerly issued diagnosis for Komoedov, namely “fit for military service with limitations, unfit for service on ships.” Now the Defense Ministry needs to make a decision regarding continuation of military service by Komoedov.

Meanwhile, Komoedov himself considers himself totally healthy and calls the personal hostility of Kuroedov the reason for his dismissal. The scandal is growing, and it already involves both judicial bodies and officials of a higher level than the commanders of the Navy and the Black Sea Fleet.

Officially, the conflict began on June 10, when Kuroedov informed Komoedov in a telephone conversation that he had signed an order for dismissal of Komoedov due to his bad health. In response, on June 14 Komoedov appealed to the military court, demanding invalidation of his dismissal from the moment of its signing.

Lieutenant Colonel of Justice Vladimir Pchelkin, deputy chair of the Novorossiysk garrison military court, took in the complaint and started legal proceedings. Navy Commander Kuroedov became the defendant in the case. The order for dismissal of Komoedov was suspended. In 2000, Komoedov was operated upon, and on July 5, 2001, a medical commission stated that he was fit for military service with limitations.

The reason for the complaint of Komoedov about his commander’s actions is something involving deep feelings for him. He wants to command the Black Sea Fleet. Retired Colonel General Nikolai Kizun told WPS, “In the past Maresyev flew airplanes and fought against the fascists without legs, and one-eyed Admiral Nelson sailed the oceans. Why cannot Komoedov command the fleet after an injury?” It is possible to agree with such opinion in some circumstances. The questions that the general asks are quite reasonable. All the more so, since it is rumored that Komoedov has been dismissed because he and Kuroedov failed to reach a mutual understanding. The Black Sea Commander does not agree with the Navy Command with regard to payments of Russian sailors to Ukraine. Kuroedov, who is 60 years old, sees a rival for the post of the Navy Commander in the youngest commander of a Russian fleet.

We will not comment on these rumors and will look at the problem from the standpoint of the law. Actually, the conflict grew out of nothing. The Defense Ministry did not receive any documents for dismissal of Komoedov, although public repercussions from the statements of Komoedov were sensational. This is nonsense, when an admiral files a suit against his boss. The press writes about the conflict, and the problem is getting transformed from a purely military-administrative one into a social and political issue. An impression is made that the Navy, which needs to be the guarantor of stability and safety of maritime borders of the country, is flooded with conflicts and quarrels. The principle of one-man command is undermined. Naturally, in such circumstances it is necessary to relieve the tension. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was evidently right when he announced through his press service that the personnel problem of Komoedov would be solved in the near future. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry hardly thinks that only the Minister has the right to define the fate of Komoedov. According to the Constitution, the incumbent Black Sea Commander can protest about the verdict of the Defense Ministry and military medical commission. Major General of medical service Valery Kulikov, reports, “We are prepared for an attempt of Komoedov to sue the military doctors and to demand independent military medical examination. Then the leading experts of the Healthcare Ministry will meet and will issue their own verdict. I am convinced that the verdict will be the same as the verdict of experts of the military medical commission. Komoedov has a complaint that is very difficult to hide.” Kulikov emphasizes that, according to currently effective documents and the medical diagnosis of Komoedov (fit for military service with limitations), the Defense Minister can leave him in the post of Black Sea Commander. Time will show what will be the outcome. So far the conflict between admirals highlights certain problems in the supreme military command. Subordinates want more democratic and predictable military service relations, but the bosses seem to be going to tighten the discipline.

Civil control over armed forces is one of the signs of democratic society. This is done by various methods, including establishment of inspecting bodies and institutions in presidential administrations. This is not so in Russia, which is confirmed by the fact that on July 2 the President issued a decree on organization of the military inspectorate in the Defense Ministry. This inspection service previously existed in the Security Council. It is clear that Putin demonstrated confidence in Ivanov. Along with this, by his decree Putin provoked a situation contributing to greater non-transparency of Russian Armed Forces. Of course, this non-transparency is no good for democracy.

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