Putin “purges” entire Baltic fleet command for refusal to confront Western ships

Vladimir Putin at Russia's annual Navy Day (Photo: Kremlin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has just fired his entire Baltic fleet command in what many are calling a a Stalin-like “purge.”

According to The Daily Mail, Putin fired over 50 officers -including Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk and his chief of staff Rear Admiral Sergei Popov- after they allegedly refused to follow orders confronting Western ships.

Russian reports also hinted at the purges being the result of an alleged cover-up of a submarine accident, as well as sub-par military construction projects and recruitment. The Moscow Times reported that “not since Stalin’s purges had so many officers been ousted at once.”

The firings -which are occurring with size and publicity unusual for the Russian military- come at a time when other senior officers have been removed from command for poor combat training and failure to take proper care of personnel.

Putin’s firings come as a surprise to many, as his visit with the Baltic fleet in Kalingrad last year ended with him praising the performance of the fleet. However, since the stepping up of aggressive Russian displays of force against US and allied vessels over the past year, some analysts are drawing correlation between Russia’s new aggression and the sackings.

“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. “But the Russian Baltic Fleet in April, however, refused to follow such dangerous orders- hence Putin’s retaliation against his own naval officers.”

NATO officials are concerned by Russia’s new, more aggressive behaviour- particularly in the Baltic regions.

“There was no reason to be very concerned five years ago when you could count on more or less peaceful behavior of the Russian side,” said Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “Now it’s becoming more and more possible that these forces could be used, and this is reason for concern.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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