Born: Tarskoe, Russia, 1963, in the disputed Prigorodny region, scene of ethnic clashes between Ingush and North Ossetian militias in the early 1990s.
Military rank and background: Colonel and paratrooper. Graduate of Ryazan School for airborne troops, Frunze Military Academy and the General Staff Academy.
Early claim to fame: Led the "dash to Pristina" in 1999, when Russian peacekeepers seized an airport in Kosovo before advancing NATO forces could occupy it, giving Moscow greater leverage in the diplomatic endgame to the Bosnian war.
Award: Hero of Russian Federation, the nation's highest honor, for leading an operation to rescue soldiers captured by rebels during the second Chechen war.