President Vladimir Putin fired three generals and a top state security official Monday in a shake-up that analysts said was aimed at ending feuding in the top ranks and responding to recent losses linked to Chechnya.
The most prominent figure dismissed was Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of the general staff. A Kremlin statement said Kvashnin, who had held the post 1997, would be replaced by his deputy, Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky.
Putin also fired the head of Interior Ministry forces, Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov; the top military commander in the North Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya, Gen. Mikhail Labunets; and the deputy head of the Federal Security Service, Anatoly Yezhkov, the Kremlin press office said.
It gave no official reasons for the firings, but military analysts said Kvashnin had paid the price for a tug-of-war with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Putin's confidant. Kvashnin and Ivanov have been competing for effective control of the military.
The three others had been punished for last month's separatist raid on Ingushetia, next to the rebel region of Chechnya, analysts said. More than 90 people were killed in the raid.
Kvashnin's firing followed a decree by Putin that cut the powers of the general staff and reduced it to a department in the Defense Ministry.
Russia's leaders have repeatedly failed to modernize the huge and ineffective armed forces inherited from the Soviet Union.
After years of poor funding and negligence, the 1.3 million-member force is beset by problems that include poor equipment and training and regular desertions by conscripts.
Putin made clear in his state of the nation address in May that military reform remained one of his primary goals.
Military officials have said the jockeying for influence between the Defense Ministry and the general staff -- a built-in feature of military life in Russia -- was one of the factors stalling any effort to carry out radical reforms.
Kvashnin came to prominence when he led the failed war to seize control of Chechnya in 1994-96.
He has persistently clashed with defense ministers, defending his goal to build up massive ground forces at the expense of more sophisticated and modern branches of the military.