50 officers including Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk have reportedly been fired in a Stalin-style bloodletting
RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin has taken a page out of Joseph Stalin’s book — and sacked every commander in his Baltic fleet.
As many as 50 senior officers including a Vice Admiral have been purged amid reports they refused to confront Western ships.
Other Russian news sites also speculated that attempts to cover up a crash between a Russian sub and a Polish boat may have been behind the bloodletting.
But given the endemic nature of corruption and incompetence across the Russian military, Western analysts are scratching their heads as to the real reason behind the purge.
The performance of Russia’s military during recent high profile, large-scale military NATO military exercises in the Baltic may have something to do with it. As could the ever escalating games of brinkmanship being played out in the international waters and skies.
“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,” says international affairs analyst Peter Coates.
“But the Russian Baltic Fleet in April, however, refused to follow such dangerous orders — hence Putin’s retaliation against his own naval officers.”
‘DERELICTION OF DUTY’
“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,” The Moscow Times report reads.
“Not since Stalin’s purges had so many officers been ousted at once.”
“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,” Putin reportedly declared when visiting the Baltic base of Kaliningrad for Navy Day celebrations a year ago.
A small remaining Russian enclave on the Baltic coast, Kaliningrad, has since become a major thorn in NATO’s side.
Putin has built the outpost into a fortress and stationed long-range cruise missiles there that can reach deep into the heart of Europe.
So Putin would likely have been paying increased attention to the performance — and loyalty — of local commanders.
Especially during recent spikes in tensions, such as the major BALTOPS 2016 exercise in which the massed warships of Europe and the United States practised amphibious assaults.
Military commentators noted at the time that the Russian response had been unusually muted.