Putin Sacks Fleet Commanders in Stalin-Like Purge
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sacked 50 of his Baltic Sea naval fleet's officers amid concerns about failure to follow orders, incompetence and corruption.
Among the 50 were fleet commander Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk and his chief of staff Vice Admiral Sergei Popov.
The men displayed "serious shortcomings in the organisation 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", the Russian defence ministry said.
The move followed a month-long audit by the Kremlin, which was apparently sparked by a collision of the submarine Krasnodar with a Polish patrol boat during a training exercise. Local media reported that the Baltic fleet commanders attempted to cover up the incident.
However, some media reports indicate that a recent incident with the U.S. might also be involved. “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,” said international affairs analyst Peter Coates, according to News.com.au. “But the Russian Baltic Fleet in April, however, refused to follow such dangerous orders — hence Putin’s retaliation against his own naval officers.”
The Baltic Sea fleet is less well-equipped than Russia’s Black Sea and Northern fleets. It consists of 128 surface ships and 71 landing craft.
The significance of the Baltic region has surged in recent years with the defection from the former Soviet Union of the Baltic States, including Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Not since Joseph Stalin’s purges in the 1930s have so many officers been sacked at once.