Sunday’s visit of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to Rostov-on-Don, where he presented the new commander, Colonel General Yury Boldyrev, at the offices of the North Caucasus Military District, was hardly preplanned. According to sources in the Defense Ministry, quite recently the visit was not in the plans of the military leadership of the country. However, refusal of former commander of the North Caucasus Military District, Colonel General Gennady Troshev, to go to Siberia to continue his service stirred up the public and political elite of the country. The President himself reacted to the actions of the hero-general and signed a decree on his dismissal. Incidentally, Troshev was the commander of the most combat-ready military district in Russia.

Explaining the reasons for such a personnel reshuffle, Ivanov said that dismissal of Troshev and appointment of Boldyrev to the post of commander of the North Caucasus Military District “was caused by service necessities.” Ivanov added that “Such a decision was a result of well-considered human resources policy of the Defense Ministry, pursued taking into account the needs of the Armed Forces for commanders possessing experience of antiterrorist operations and capable of commanding the troops in various theaters.” He emphasized, “We have been carrying out this kind of rotation and will do it in the future too.”

Ivanov did not hide from the journalists the fact that this decision was ready already in August, when Ivanov and President Putin inspected the units and formations of the Siberian Military District. In 2002, the troops of the Siberian Military District were named the best in the Armed Forces. It is difficult to disagree with this opinion. Boldyrev is probably worthy to be appointed to the post of commander of the most combat-ready military district. However, does Troshev figure in the affair? Quite recently state officials spoke of Troshev in a thoroughly flattering manner. Presenting the new commander to the officers of the North Caucasus Military District, Ivanov also spoke about the merits of Troshev. He thanked Troshev “for a significant personal contribution to fulfillment of especially important tasks related to liquidation of militant forces in Chechnya by the United Group of the Federal Forces in the North Caucasus.” The Minister added, “The personnel of the district takes an active part in fulfillment of the tasks of stabilization of the situation in the North Caucasus, which has allowed withdrawal of a significant part of units of other military districts from Chechnya.”

Troshev has been decorated with the title of Hero of Russia. In recent Russian history, generals usually left the post of commander of the North Caucasus Military District only to take higher posts. For example, in 1997 Anatoly Kvashnin was appointed the Chief of the General Staff. In 2000, Victor Kazantsev became the Presidential Plenipotentiary in the Southern Federal District. Troshev, who was born in Grozny and passed through two campaigns in Chechnya, was moved to the equivalent post in a remote military district.

This is not quite clear. Many observers explain the actions of Troshev by this very circumstance. Seeing the vulnerability of his position, Ivanov quoted his critics. In Rostov-on-Don he said, “It is necessary to admit that, despite the achieved positive results, not all problems of the district are solved. Some units and formations failed to establish efficient control over their condition of combat readiness and did not improve operational training qualitatively. The percentage of worn out armament and combat materiel is high in the troops of the district, insufficient attention is paid to technical maintenance work as the main method of maintenance of readiness and reliability of armament and combat materiel. The level of professional skills of officers of the platoon-company level remains low, as well as the skills of some other categories of servicemen. There were no radical improvements in such an important issue as manning of the troops with officers. The work on maintenance of order is organized with low effectiveness. The problem of preserving of military property is not fully solved.” Ivanov told the new command of the district, “In 2003 it is necessary to view these problems as priorities.”

Meanwhile, the critique of Ivanov is one-sided. Observers noticed that former commander of the Group of Federal Forces in Chechnya Vladimir Moltenskoy skipped the level of military district commander and became Deputy Commander of the Ground Forces. Incidentally, Moltenskoy received a rank by one stage higher than that corresponding to his post: in 2002 he became Colonel General.

Sources in the North Caucasus noted that Troshev was irritated by the offer of Sergei Ivanov to move to such a post. Of course, Troshev is not right, because he lost his nerve. To maintain the principle of one-man command, the President had to dismiss the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, which finally happened. However, the leadership of the Defense Ministry simply let the President down.

Incidentally, this is not an isolated fact. In 2002 alone, scandalous personnel reshuffles occurred in three military administrative territories of the country. Commander in Chief of the Navy, Vladimir Kuroedov, laid the blame for the wreck of the Kursk nuclear submarine on the command of the Northern Fleet and dismissed it.

Kuroedov also had legal disputes with the former commander of the Black Sea Fleet, and the President dismissed Komoedov. Now we have the scandal with Troshev.

Numerous escapes of servicemen from military units, murders and so on happen in the Armed Forces against this background. A question arises: is at least some reform underway in the Army?