Vladimir Putin fired up to 50 Baltic fleet commanders, along with Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk, and his chief of staff, Rear Admiral Sergei Popov. The Russian media is calling the firing of the commanders a “Stalin-style purge” and indicate that the overhaul was due to the fleet commanders refusal to follow Putin’s orders to “confront Western ships,” which many say would have been extremely dangerous.
Putin “purges” entire Baltic fleet command for refusal to confront Western ships https://t.co/XEcjE5lEG9
— DeploymentEssentials (@DeployEssential) July 12, 2016
The Daily Mail reports that Vladimir Putin is being criticized in Russian media for the mass firing of commanders in the Baltic fleet. The purge of so many high-ranking officials is being deemed “highly unusual” and indicative of larger changes coming. In fact, it was pointed out that Putin typically removes individuals from the Russian military in a quiet and subtle manner, unlike the mass firing of officers, believed to be as many as 50, in the Baltic fleet. Therefore, speculation has been swirling as to the reason for the massive purge.
Australia’s News.com reports that the move to substantially change the military is a page directly out of Joseph Stalin’s books as “corruption” and issues with “loyalty” were deemed likely reasons for the purge. One incident that many are speculating may be resulted in the mass firing was regarding the response to the USS Donald Cook’s entrance into the Baltic.
“Some hint that the ‘buzzing’ of USS Donald Cook by Russian Su-24 fighter-bombers on April 14, 2016 was meant to be part of a broader series of Russian confrontations against Western ships in the Baltic. But the Russian Baltic Fleet in April, however, refused to follow such dangerous orders — hence Putin’s retaliation against his own naval officers.”
Vladimir Putin has tried to maintain a stronghold in the Baltic sea over the years, heavily utilizing his Baltic fleet sailors. When visiting the Baltic base of Kaliningrad for Navy Day last year, Putin noted that Russia has long been a “great sea power.”
“The courage of our sailors, the talent of our shipbuilders, and the spirit of our famous pioneers, explorers and naval commanders have confirmed Russia’s status as a great sea power.”
— TheEasternBorder (@Eastern_Border) July 12, 2016
Despite his praise and optimism for the fleet last year, it appears something has changed. The Moscow Times revealed the extent of the “purge” by noting it was a dramatic move that likely stems from problems in the fleet regarding loyalty and efficiency.
“On June 29, the Russian Defense Ministry announced it was purging the entire senior and mid-level command of the Baltic Fleet. It was a dramatic move that suggested deep structural problems within the fleet command. In total, 50 officers were dismissed from their post, including the fleet commander, Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk, and his chief of staff, Vice Admiral Sergei Popov. Not since Stalin’s purges had so many officers been ousted at once.”
— Chuck Pfarrer (@ChuckPfarrer) July 12, 2016
It was noted that at the time of the removal of the officers, the Russian Defense Ministry made a point to justify the ousting by claiming the officers were guilty of “dereliction of duty.” A report by the Defense Ministry allegedly claimed “serious shortcomings in the organization of combat training, daily activities of their forces, failure to take all necessary measures to improve personnel accommodations, inattention to their subordinates and distorted reports on the real state of affairs [in the fleet].”
Another possible reason for the mass firing are in regards to an alleged Russian submarine incident in which a submarine allegedly collided with another vessel, some reports claiming it was a Polish patrol boat. The Baltic fleet command was rumored to have orchestrated a massive cover-up of the training accident, but those rumors were never fully confirmed.
Though it is not clear exactly why the Russian Defense Ministry and Vladimir Putin removed all of the commanding Baltic fleet officers, it is clear that change is coming regarding the nation’s military program.
[Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP Photo]