According to Kommersant, prosecutors have charged an artillery battalion commander from a motorized rifle brigade based below Novosibirsk with exceeding his authority by beating four conscripts from Dagestan. A senior investigator from the Military-Investigative Department of the Prosecutor’s Investigative Committee for the Novosibirsk Garrison reports that the incident occurred last November at the Shilovskiy range when Major Nikolay Levyy beat two draftees from Dagestan in his office, then smashed their cell phones. Levyy had been critical of the pair on more than one occasion.
Two more natives of Dagestan got it from the major in front of the formation. The investigator determined that Renat Magomedov got the worst of it when the major asked whether Magomedov would fight for the battalion or his own people if he had to choose, and Magomedov responded for his compatriots.
After this, the investigator reported, Slavic servicemen proceeded to beat all four soldiers from Dagestan. Major Levyy looked on without intervening. That evening, the events spiraled into a larger fight. Russian servicemen herded dozens of Caucasian servicemen into one barracks and locked them down. Overnight, the unit’s officers managed to quiet the disturbance, and all soldiers from Dagestan were later sent to other units.
Major Levyy was relieved of duty pending the outcome of his case. He did not admit his guilt, but also refused to incriminate himself by giving evidence. The events involving the other fighting are still under investigation.
The media accounts note that this is not the first mass fight between Caucasians and Slavs at Shilovskiy. The last one occurred on 8 January 2007 when officers had to fire warning shots to break it up, according to Kommersant. Law enforcement only found out when one soldier turned up in the hospital with a ruptured spleen several days later.
Some press reminded readers of the early July 2009 incident in which 200 Russian and other soldiers reportedly fought with 44 conscripts from Dagestan at Aleysk, also in the SibVO.
Some thoughts on this news item . . .
The major smashing the soldiers’ cell phones is interesting. Commanders say they don’t like soldiers having them because new conscripts have them taken away by older soldiers, contractees, and officers. Commanders say cell phones jeopardize their units’ secrecy and security. But they probably don’t like them because cell phones are a lifeline to call for help in cases where conscripts are being abused or mistreated. This tends to get the commander in trouble, one way or the other.
Would the major ask a soldier from Dagestan if he would fight for his battalion or for his compatriots if there weren’t already some pretty serious interethnic violence, conflicts, and tensions in his unit?
Shilovskiy is basically a SibVO arms and equipment storage base left unchanged despite the army’s ‘new profile.’ Levyy, like other Russian officers, probably faced the reality that there are now fewer officers, warrants, and contract sergeants to supervise increased numbers of conscripts. The commander also faces more demands from his superiors, the SibVO, Genshtab, and Defense Ministry today with the push for the ‘new profile.’ It likely breeds frustration that drives higher levels of officer crime from year to year. It’s interesting that it’s the battalion commander himself using his fists against soldiers, and not their own battery commanders, captains, or lieutenants.
A major in Levyy’s position is damned if he doesn’t and damned if he doesn’t. If he acts, he has few levers at his disposal—where are the new military police, the guardhouses, the old military commandant? So he resorts to his fists and something akin to prison camp order. And if he doesn’t act, he can’t keep order at all and the situation just gets worse.
There are lots of other incidents involving conscripts from Dagestan either giving, or taking, beatings in the armed forces. And we’ll look at some in days to come. But interethnic tensions in the Russian Army don’t always involve just soldiers from Dagestan.