Ivan Yegorov Gazeta, December 3, 2001, pp. 1, 3

Northern Fleet command dismissed

Admirals were informed of their resignations on Saturday, the day President Vladimir Putin met with Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov and was briefed on preliminary results of the Kursk investigation. The president then met with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, and Navy Commander Vladimir Kuroyedov. Vice Admiral Vladimir Dobroskochenko was promoted to Northern Fleet acting commander. Nothing is known at this point about the fate of Vyacheslav Popov, Mikhail Motsak, and 12 other dismissed admirals and officers.

The purge may not be finished.

According to the president, what materials the investigation team has provided indicates “that the quality of the organization of the exercise and the rescue mission to a considerable degree of accuracy.” “I’d like to emphasize,” Putin said “that on the basis of these materials, we can gauge the quality of the work done by the officials but cannot connect it to the consequences. That is why I want the defense minister, chief of the General Staff, and Navy commander to formulate the proposals containing staff solutions and, first and foremost, the system of measures aimed at the improvement of the activities of the Navy on the whole.”

Kuroyedov issues his orders several hours after the audience. Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov and Chief-of-Staff Mikhail Motsak were demoted, probably, one position each. The question is whether they will remain in active service. Probably not. They will resign of their own volition.

Kvashnin explained, “The disciplinary measures used against admirals and officers of the Northern Fleet and Navy Main Command have nothing to do with the Kursk. “As far as the nuclear submarine is concerned, we do not have any reasons to punish anybody because investigation is underway and the governmental commission of the Prosecutor General’s Office is still working. We cannot draw any conclusions yet,” said Kvashnin. Kuroyedov explained the purge. He said the Navy Command had analyzed the activities of the Northern Fleet over the last eighteen years and particularly organization of the mass sortie for the exercise in 2000. Navy experts had been used together with officials of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Kuroyedov said. The conclusion is as follows: “Serious flaws have been uncovered on all levels on the command.” Kuroyedov said that all these conclusions do not have anything to do with the Kursk. “Officers of the Fleet are strong enough to draw the correct conclusions,” he said.

It is hard to believe that the death of the Kursk has not had anything to do with the purge. All involved admirals and officers were superiors of the Kursk commander, were responsible for combat training or organization of the exercise, or torpedoes and rescue means. On the other hand, all of this applies to Kuroyedov, the one and only Navy commander. It is common knowledge that all these 10 years ships have sailed out only with enthusiasm. Hulls and engines are worn out, repairs are infrequent, and armaments are outdated. Many commanders lack skills since combat training is mostly restricted to the ships being moored. That is like every sortie, not to mention that maneuvers on a large scale become a truly heroic deed. Sailors constantly brace themselves for an accident or some serious trouble at best. Despite all of this, orders are given and followed. We do not know yet why the Kursk was not unloaded when it returned from the Mediterranean in May 2000. According to the official hypothesis, torpedoes and missiles should not have been unloaded, and were not, because the Kursk is a permanent combat readiness ship. Unofficially, there are rumors that unloading cranes at the submarine base were out of order. Heading for a training shooting exercise, the ship should carry training torpedoes, not combat ones. Had they been unloaded from the Kursk at least for the exercise, the tragedy would have been averted.

There are lots of unanswered questions on the exercise. The same questions that have remained unanswered since last year. All observers are under the impression that the exercise was not properly organized. When the Navy commander fires the upper echelons of the best combat ready fleet whose ships sail more often than ships of other fleets, what can be said about the state of affairs in other fleets then? They may probably be disbanded altogether. The Navy has been virtually the only branch of the service to escape staff shuffles. Putin’s sympathies with the Navy must have played their part. The president has been on the Navy Military Council since 1997 and knows the problems of the Navy. Admirals have failed to live up to the president’s expectations.

Staff purges in the Navy are unlikely to be restricted to the 14 officers. We will hear of new resignations soon.

Rear Admiral Gennadi Verich, Chief of the Search-and-Rescue Directorate of the Navy;

Rear Admiral Valery Panferov, Chief of the Directorate of Underwater Equipment of the Navy;

Vice Admiral Yuri Boyarkin, Chief of the Combat Training Directorate of the Northern Fleet;

Rear Admiral Vladimir Khandobin, Chief of the Northern Fleet Directorate, handed in his resignation.

Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov;

Northern Fleet Chief-of-Staff Mikhail Motsak;

Vice Admiral Nikolai Mikheev, Chief of Combat Training Directorate of the Navy;

Rear Admiral Oleg Burtsev, Submarine Flotilla Commander;

Rear Admiral Valery Filatov, Submarine Flotilla Chief-of-Staff;

Rear Admiral Mikhail Kuznetsov, Submarine Division Commander;

Rear Admiral Farid Zinnatullin, Submarine Flotilla Deputy Commander;

Captain 1st Class Alexander Teslenko, Chief of the Search-and-Rescue Directorate of the Northern Fleet;

Captain 1st Class Ruben Karakhanov, Northern Fleet unit commander.

Captain 1st Class Viktor Kobelev, Submarine Division Deputy Commander, received a warning on partial inadequacy.