Medvedev fires Air Force commander
27.04.12 14:24 By Alexandr Artemiev, edited by Semyon Kvasha
General-colonel Alexandr Zelin, commander of the Air Force Photo: ITAR-TASS
A week before leaving his post, President Dmitry Medvedev has made changes in the Army's high command, replacing two top commanders. Air Force commander Alexandr Zelin was fired; Commander of Central Military District Vladimir Chirkin, Army commander Alexandr Postnikov-Streltsov and deputy head of General Staff Valery Gerasimov all changed posts.
The decree was published on Friday and consisted of only two points. According to the first, general-colonel Valery Gerasimov was appointed Commander of Central Military District troops, general-colonel Alexandr Postnikov-Streltsov was appointed deputy head of General Staff, general-colonel Vladimir Chirkin was appointed Army commander.
The generals were shuffled. Yesterday Gerasimov was the deputy to the head of General Staff, General of the Army Nikolai Makarov, Postnikov-Streltsov commanded the Army, Chirkin headed Central Military District.
The second point fired Air Force commander general-colonel Alexandr Zelin.
He was appointed by Putin on May 9, 2007 and held his post longer than any other troop commander: admiral Vladimir Vysotsky was appointed commander of the Navy half a year later.
Experts suppose there's an internal conflict in the Ministry of Defense behind Zelin's resignation.
Most likely, the Ministry will announce that Zelin retired, reaching maximum length of service.
"As a flying pilot, Zelin's length of service is incredible," military expert Alexandr Goltz told Gazeta.ru. But he could be fired another way. According to the law, the limit of service for a general-colonel is 60 years of age. This May, Zelin will turn 59, "this resignation a year before it's necessary shows a conflict," Goltz told Gazeta.ru
The expert talks about possible reasons for Zelin's resignation and remembers the discussion about the creation of a Military Space Defense Force, offered by Medvedev. Zelin "showed himself incompetent" in front of Minister of defence Anatoly Serdyukov and the head of General Staff, Nikolai Makarov.
"The very idea to create Space Defence Force was questioned by experts, some call the initiative a soap bubble," Goltz said.
The creation of the new Force provoked a large carve-up inside the Ministry of defence. "Space Defense and Air Force divided the Air Defense Force," the expert said. "brigades of the Moscow industrial region Air Defense Force were given to Space Defense, the fate of other brigades and also the Army Air Defense are still undecided."
There are other questions for Zelin. "He served long at his post and survived several unpleasant moments, for example, the war with Georgia. Sending a strategic bomber TU22M on a reconnaissance mission and then lose it…" Goltz said. Only after the war ended, did deputy head of General Staff Anatoly Nogovitsyn admit that the use of a TU22M in the zone of Georgian-Ossetian conflict "Was not the most accurate decision."
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