Ground Forces Chief Headed to NATO

General Alexei Maslov, commander of the Ground Forces, is to leave his post in what experts say is part of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's ongoing shakeup to get rid of his predecessor's subordinates.

Maslov, who is to be sent to Brussels to serve as the military's chief envoy to NATO, will become the last of the three commanders of the armed forces' three branches to lose his post under Serdyukov.

Serdyukov has already replaced the Air Force and Navy commanders since taking over from former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in February 2007. All three commanders were appointed during Ivanov's tenure.

Earlier this year, President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed General Staff chief Yury Baluyevsky, who had reportedly disagreed with Serdyukov over the nature and implementation of reforms.

Maslov, 55, will likely be replaced by Vladimir Boldyrev, commander of the Volga-Urals Military District, Kommersant reported Wednesday without citing anyone.

Maslov's departure may not be because he is a "die-hard conservative," said independent defense analyst Alexander Golts. "It might be in line with the bureaucratic tradition in Russia to fire your predecessor's proteges so that the new appointees owe their posts to the new boss," Golts said.

An unidentified diplomat told Interfax on Tuesday that Maslov would move to Brussels sometime in August or September, adding that Maslov would "strengthen the Russian military and diplomatic presence in NATO institutions."

Golts said, however, that Maslov's new post carries little weight.

"Currently, it all boils down to invectives at NATO expansion, and [Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry] Rogozin is quite good at this already, " Golts said.

Calls to the Defense Ministry press services and the Ground Forces press services went unanswered Wednesday.