As Moscow continues to face fierce resistance in the third week of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has reportedly fired, maybe retired, or possibly arrested one of its top Generals.
According to multiple Russia-state media outlets, on March 17, General Roman Gavrilov was no longer serving as Deputy Commander of Rosgvardiya -the Russian National Guard. The details surrounding Gavrilov’s sudden departure at the height of fighting in Ukraine aren’t entirely clear.
Most Russian media outlets reported Gavrilov had submitted his resignation “due to seniority.” This ambiguously suggests the second-highest-ranking official in Rosgvardiya had decided to retire while Russia was in the middle of fighting its largest war since World War II.
Offering, perhaps, a rare relic of independent reporting in the Russian Federation, the news outlet URA reported Gavrilov had been fired. Citing “sources familiar with the situation,” URA said Gavrilov’s ousting had been personally initiated by National Guard Commander Viktor Zolotov.
“Deputy Director of the Russian Guard Roman Gavrilov was fired. Dismissed for unknown reasons, possibly compromising,” a law enforcement source reportedly told URA.
News that Gavrilov was in trouble was first reported by the award-winning lead investigative journalist for the news outlet Bellingcat Christo Grozev.
At around 4:00 pm (Moscow time), Grozev posted on Twitter that three independent sources had told him Gavrilov had been detailed by Russia’s federal security service: FSB.
“The reason for the detention is unclear: per one source he was detained by FSB’s military counter-intelligence department over “leaks of military info that led to loss of life”, while two others say it was “wasteful squandering of fuel”, ahem,” wrote Grozev.
Shortly after Grozev’s social media post, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Alexander Khinshtein, posted on Telegram that reports that Gavrilov was detained were “totally untrue” and that he had just spoken with the General.
Roughly 30 minutes after Khinshtein dismissed Gavrilov’s arrest, URA published their account that he’d been fired. Hours later, several Russian media outlets, including Russia’s leading liberal-leaning outlet, Kommersant, offered the alternative version that Gavrilov had resigned.
The only thing all sources seem to agree on is that Gavrilov is no longer Rosgvardiya’s Deputy Commander. A request by The Debrief to the Rosgvardiya’s press service for clarification went unanswered.
Established in 2016, Rosgvardiya is independent of the Russian Armed Forces, reporting directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian National Guard’s stated mission is securing Russia’s borders, counter-terrorism, and protecting public order.
Because the internal military force doesn’t fall under the Ministry of Defense and only reports to the Russian President, some critics have accused the Rosgvardiya of being Putin’s private army for controlling civil strife.
As of 2018, Rosgvardiya reportedly had 340,000 personnel in 84 units across Russia.
Significant numbers of Rosgvardiya troops were used to spearhead Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Consequently, in the face of an incredibly determined Ukrainian defense force, it is believed that Rosgvardiya has suffered significant casualties, now three weeks into the invasion.
According to Kommersant, Gavrilov took over as Deputy Commander Rosgvardiya in the summer of last year. Previously, Gavrilov headed the Main Directorate of Internal Security (GUSB) for Rosgvardiya, an oversight office for the National Guard. Gavrilov was reportedly known as a “cleaner” for having headed up investigations that led to more than ten key department chiefs and generals’ dismissal or arrest.
According to Rosgvardiya’s website, from 1997 to 2017, Gavrilov served as a federal security officer in the Presidential Regiment in charge of protecting presidents Boris Yeltsin, Dmitry Medvedev, and Vladimir Putin.
As Deputy Commander, Gavrilov continued supervising GUSB while also commanding Rosgvardiya’s Spetsnaz (special forces) units.
Gavrilov’s ousting comes after Russia has already lost four Commanding Generals to fighting in Ukraine. Previously reported by The Debrief, Russia has also suffered staggering losses to field-and-company grade officers.
The removal or surprising “retirement” of Rosgvardiya’s Deputy Commander also comes two days after Putin gave a frenzied speech in which he condemned Russians who were unsupportive of the war effort as “traitors and scum.”
Follow and connect with author Tim McMillan on Twitter: @LtTimMcMillan or encrypted email: LtTimMcMillan@protonmail.com