Moscow has installed new commanders at the head of its Baltic and Pacific fleets, Russia’s Interfax and TASS news agencies have reported.
The former head of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Admiral Viktor Liina, is now in charge of the Pacific Fleet, the news agencies reported on Friday, and Vice Admiral Vladimir Vorobyov is the new commander of the fleet in the Baltics.
Liina replaces the previous head of the Pacific Fleet, Sergei Avakyants, whose surprise retirement was announced on Thursday.
“The deputy chief of general staff, Vice Admiral Vladimir Vorobyov, has been appointed commander of the Baltic Fleet. The relevant documents have been signed,” Interfax reported on Friday, citing military sources.
News of Avakyants’ removal made waves coming just a few days after the Pacific Fleet was ordered to participate in an unannounced major manoeuvre said to simulate Russian forces repelling a “theoretical enemy landing”, the Moscow Times reported.
Officially, 65-year-old Avakyants was retired because he had reached retirement age. Independent media, on the other hand, have pointed to the high losses that parts of the fleet under Avakyants’ leadership are said to have suffered in the war on Ukraine.
The Pacific Fleet, which is based in port of Vladivostok, did not comment on the reshuffle, the Moscow Times added.
Russia has a total of four fleets. The largest is the so-called Northern Fleet, which includes a heavy aircraft carrier and two missile cruisers. The second largest fleet is the Pacific Fleet, followed by the Black Sea and Baltic fleets.
Members of all four naval units are also fighting in Russia’s war against Ukraine – mostly as marines.
The US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that reports of Liina’s appointment as commander of the Pacific Fleets coincided with the completion of drills by the fleet in the Pacific under the supervision of Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov.
“ISW previously assessed that Avakyants’ dismissal may have been a result of his inability to recreate pre-war, large-scale Pacific Fleet combat readiness checks due to the Pacific Fleet’s significant combat losses in Ukraine,” the think tank said on Friday.
In the future, Avakyants is to lead an organisation that oversees military training and patriotic education, state media reported.