Exploding Arsenals

Media commentaries on the arsenal explosions were outstanding.  Here are excerpts from some . . .

Viktor Myasnikov in Nezavisimaya gazeta:

“The father of one of 300 conscripts assigned to the arsenal, Andrey Chukavin, said three days before the incident he complained on the Defense Ministry website about safety rule and regulation violations in the loading-unloading work.  In his opinion, the arsenal didn’t figure on the quantity of munitions that arrived in the last month.  ‘Conscripts and civilians had to work in two shifts for loading-unloading.  Work went on from 8:30 until three in the morning or later,’ — he told journalists.”

“However, in past years there hasn’t been a single explosion at a civilian enterprises disarming munitions.  Because automated systems of disassembly are working there, safe techniques of eliminating explosives are employed and safety rules are strictly observed.  But it’s more advantageous for the Defense Ministry to use draftees, old-fashioned manual disassembly and save budget resources on its arsenals.  And then the state will spend billions covering the damage from such economizing.”

“Soon, as punishment, the president will dismiss the next batch of generals and colonels.  But the system remains.  So explosions will rumble in the arsenals again in a year or two, or even earlier.”

Itogi’s Oleg Andreyev:

“. . . they’ve made responsible for the explosion in the artillery depot in the Bashkir village of Urman a conscript whose guilt consists probably of not being trained to work with explosive substances.”

“Really everything that’s happening now under Serdyukov’s administration is absolutely natural.  Specifically, under him, the last professionals who received a classical military education departed the Armed Forces.  In essence, continuity was destroyed, and, as they say, the experience of organizing service, literally paid for with blood, drained away into the sand.  Including also experience in storing and servicing explosive substances, munitions and combat means.  To put it differently, there are still shells and missiles, bombs and torpedoes in the arsenals, but experience and skill is lacking!  Explosions in depots don’t just cause deadly fireworks.  In society’s consciousness, the shock wave will raze all of military reform to the ground.”

In Nasha versiya, Vadim Saranov writes:

“Can it be that in June 2010 [sic] after the explosions at the arsenal in Ulyanovsk, the president dismissed an entire handful of generals, but, as we see, nothing came out of this.  On the other hand, several other Defense Ministry decisions, in the opinion of specialists, are increasing by several times the risk of similar events at depots and ranges.  As ‘Nasha versiya’ already wrote, at the beginning of 2010, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov issued a directive, according to which the Russian Army should rid itself of all old munitions by the end of 2011.  But no kind of serious investment in this program was foreseen.  It was ordered to get rid of shells either by explosive methods or in army arsenal workshops which have obsolete equipment.  Today, according to our Defense Ministry sources, to fulfill these instructions, dismantlement is taking place in a rush in units.  It isn’t excluded that this hurrying itself could even be the cause of future accidents.  Judge yourself:  according to official statements, the first explosion in the depot in Udmurtia happened on the night of 2-3 June during some ‘loading-unloading’ work.  Ask yourself:  from what kind of panic, really, is loading-unloading work conducting at night in a second-rank arsenal?  Did a war start?  According to regulations, at this time there should only be sentries, duty officers, and orderlies on watch.  Then who was handling shells?  How much time did this soldiers rest in the previous day?  For this reason, it can’t be hoped that the events in Bashkiria and Udmurtia will be the last in the series of bombardments of peaceful Russian towns.  The minister’s order will be fulfilled at any price.”

Lastly for this post, Pavel Felgengauer in Novaya gazeta:

“In every separate instance (according to the results of official investigations) the guilty one is either a negligent officer or soldier (one-year conscript) who somehow didn’t handle shells and artillery powder casings carefully enough or threw down a butt.  And then the negligent chiefs who didn’t ensure supervision, order and discipline.  Even if all this is true, it isn’t possible with just one administrative dressing-down, even if Medvedev removed the minister [Serdyukov] as punishment, to solve universally the problems of masses of unneeded, expired munitions in Russia.  It wasn’t under Serdyukov that ammunition began to burn and explode regularly in Russia, and it won’t stop after him.”

“We need, of course, to arrange a reliable, effective and safe system of dismantling old munitions instead of the usual, harmful and dangerous  explosive demolition.  We need to construct reliable storage bases with secondary containment and strong concrete shelters.  Medvedev is right — we have to struggle against sloppiness.”

Felgengauer goes on to note that Russia has had to keep old shells for its old guns and tanks that haven’t been replaced.

“When the chiefs say that the army and navy’s weapons are 90 percent obsolete — this is true, but this isn’t all.  The munitions have become obsolete just the same, if not worse.  That is, old munitions are used and saved, but they from time to time randomly explode, maiming and killing people, destroying buildings.  So here’s the system, because of which it’s impossible to avoid tragedies and accidents.  And in the future, undoubtedly, there will only be more of them since weapons and munitions are getting even older, and discipline in the troops will continue to fall in response to half-baked reforms.”

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