Category Archives: Law, Order, and Discipline

Cosmic Corruption

Sergey Fridinskiy

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy gave Interfaks an interview several weeks ago in which he described generally improved crime statistics in the Armed Forces.  But he also called the scale of corruption in the military nothing short of “cosmic.”

Fridinskiy told the news service the army’s crime situation is stable and even improving.  Crimes by servicemen are down 16 percent, and there are fewer crimes committed by officers.  There’s a constantly growing number of military units where no legal violations law are registered.  Last year fewer soldiers suffered violence at the hands of their fellow soldiers.  But the army’s top law enforcer doesn’t think he’ll run out of work any time soon:

“In particular areas, for example, like saving budget resources allocated for military needs, or corrupt activities, the crime level, as before, is significant.  And we’re still far from ridding ourselves of nonregulation relations.”

More than 1,000 military officials were prosecuted for corruption, including 18 general officers — one-third of whom received jail time.  Since January 2011, the GVP’s prosecuted 250 bribery cases, many more than in 2010.  Fridinskiy singled out the GOZ and commercial firms outsourcing for military units as areas where problems are “not small.”  He puts annual Defense Ministry losses to corruption at 3 billion rubles.

This is, interestingly, the same figure he cited in early 2010.

Asked about the types of corrupt schemes in the military, Fridinskiy responded:

“Mainly untargeted use of budget resources, violating the rules and requirements of conducting auctions, competitions, and contractor selection, paying for work not really performed, significant inflating of prices for military products.  There are also multifarious kickbacks, bribes, and misuse.  Generally, the banal sharing out of budget resources.  Devotees of living on state funds especially go for violations of the law.  Their scale now is simply stratospheric, I would even say, cosmic.”

Fridinskiy said the GVP’s been active in checking high-level Defense Ministry officials’ asset and property declarations.  He said called the scale of violations here “impressive.”  More often, he continued, the GVP finds evidence of servicemen and officials engaged in illegal entrepreneurship and commercial activity.  He mentioned an unnamed deputy Northern Fleet commander who failed to disclose his wife’s assets, and a Rosoboronpostavka bureaucrat who simultaneously serves as general director of a corporation.

The GVP Chief then shifted gears to talk about barracks violence which he said was down by 20 percent in 2011, with cases involving “serious consequences” declining a third.

Lastly, Interfaks asked about military police, of which Fridinskiy’s skeptical.  He emphasized military prosecutors will continue supervising army investigations, but he doubts MPs are ready to run criminal inquiries.  He repeated his familiar assertion that they aren’t a panacea; their existence won’t change the social factors behind crime among servicemen.

Would have been interesting if the news agency had asked if this year’s higher pay for officers will cut army crime in 2012.

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The Sociological Center

Is the Russian Army's Combat Capability Increasing?

A nice find on Mil.ru . . . the Defense Ministry website has the Internet poll above on its front page.  If you click on Voting Results, you go to the results of all surveys conducted by the Defense Ministry’s Sociological Center.

To this particular question, 78 percent of respondents said its combat capability is decreasing.

Stepping back a bit, clicking on Sociological Center goes to a narrative explaining a little about it.  Its purpose is monitoring social processes in the military to work out scientifically-founded proposals on the morale-psychological support of military organizational development, training, and employment of the Armed Forces.  It also provides information support to commanders, staffs, and personnel officers.  The Center is charged with collecting data about the socio-economic circumstances of servicemen and their families.

The military opinion surveying effort has been around for a while.  During the first big push for contract service beginning in 2003, Defense Ministry pollsters actively asked contractees, or prospective ones, what attracted or discouraged them from signing up.

We’re not told how or when these survey questions were asked.  They’re likely Internet polls rather than more scientific random sampling. 

But one still admires the brutal honesty of publishing these results.  They don’t accord with what Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov wants to see or hear three years after launching military reform.  They indicate how far the Russians have to go to turn around the perception, if not the reality, of life in the Armed Forces.  At the same time, getting feedback is a critical step in correcting their problems.

Your author has regrouped the survey results on various questions thematically.  In the interests of brevity, only the answer with the highest percentage is shown.

Let’s start with other combat capability-related questions:

  • How do you evaluate the Russian Army’s current combat capability?  72 percent said low.
  • Is three months sufficient to train a military specialist?  82 percent said no.
  • What effect is the humanization of service having on combat readiness?  71 percent said it is causing it to decline.
  • Are you satisfied by the media’s presentation of Armed Forces exercises?  75 percent said no.
  • How do you evaluate the present level of combat training?  74 percent said poor.
  • Can the Armed Forces reliably guarantee Russia’s security?  81 percent said no.
  • Is there now a military threat to Russia from other countries?  79 percent said yes.

Some very general questions:

  • Do you approve of the Russian Army’s activity?  62 percent said no.
  • How do you feel when you talk about the Armed Forces?  52 percent said negative.
  • Is it necessary for the media to discuss negative events in the Armed Forces?  75 percent said yes.
  • How does the media portray the activities of the Armed Forces?  64 percent said not objectively.
  • Do you agree that “A powerful army is a powerful Russia?”  80 percent said yes.

On conscription:

  • Should draft evaders be punished?  68 percent said yes.
  • How do you feel about draft evasion?  59 percent said negative.
  • Does military service promote striving for a healthy way of life?  56 percent said yes.
  • Would you want a close relative to serve in the army?  68 percent said no.

On law and order in the ranks:

  • Who should control the military police?  52 percent said the Defense Ministry.
  • Do officers have enough powers to keep order?  84 percent said no.
  • How do you assess measures to counter corruption in the army?  66 percent said they have little effect.
  • Is “dedovshchina” an acute problem?  62 percent said yes.

On personnel, pay, and benefits:

  • Should Order No. 400 premium pay continue or be discontinued?  80 percent said discontinue it.
  • How do you feel about rotating officers’ duty stations?  51 percent are negative.
  • How has Order No. 400 affected corruption in the army?  88 percent said it’s caused it to grow.
  • Is there a “cadre famine” in the Armed Forces?  83 percent said yes.
  • How do you evaluate the consequences of Order No. 400?  89 percent are negative.
  • Where should priests be located?  42 percent said in battalions.
  • Will priests help in forming healthy moral relations in the military collective?  55 percent said no.
  • How do you evaluate the effect of the military mortgage system?  74 percent said low.
  • Will higher pay in 2012 raise the social status of servicemen?  58 percent said no.
  • Will requalifying military arsenal workers increase safety?  65 percent said no.
  • Do military families live better or worse than people in your region?  77 percent said worse.
  • Are social guarantees for servicemen sufficient?  86 percent said no.
  • Has the prestige of the Armed Forces increased in the course of military reform?  59 percent said it remains at the previous level.

The responses on the army’s capabilities weren’t new.  One is surprised, however, at how negative respondents were on premium pay, how little they expect from higher officer pay, and the lack of any improved perception of the prestige of military service.

Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part II)

After talking GOZ-2011 and contracting with OPK enterprises, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov fielded Rossiyskaya gazeta questions on pay, military sanatorium-resort (i.e. vacation) benefits, apartments, contractees, opposition to reforms, and MPs.

He said increased pay will more than offset the loss of vacation benefits.

The military will have acquired 135,000 apartments by the end of 2011.  It will obtain another 25,000 next year according to Serdyukov.

He rejected any suggestion officers were deceived or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “set up” when it came to the original 2010 and 2012 deadlines for solving permanent and service apartment problems:

“No one was deceived.  You know the number of those without apartments in the army sharply increased after the transition of the Armed Forces to a new profile began.  The dismissal of servicemen accompanied this process.  Unfortunately, the registration of those needing housing was conducted badly.”

“Precisely because of this, the lists for the receipt of housing rose from 70 thousand to 170 thousand.  It’s understandable that a hundred thousand increase could in no way be “inserted” into the bounds of 2010.”

On contractees, Serdyukov said there will be 180,000 in 2012, and 50,000 will be added each year until the number reaches 425,000 in 2017.  He added the optimal ratio, in his view, is 80 percent contractees to 20 percent conscripts.  But, if financing allowed, he’d go to 90-10.  Conscripts will serve primarily as infantrymen in motorized rifle brigades where less technical skill is required.

Asked the usual question on resistance to his steps to renew the army, Serdyukov said reforms weren’t all to his credit; they were devised mainly in the Defense Ministry by uniformed officers.  He said he can’t say there was strong resistance but rather misunderstanding about changes being made.  Without prompting, Serdyukov identified personnel downsizing, dismissals, and officers placed outside the shtat [TO&E] as sources of opposition to his work.

Serdyukov claimed there would be fewer inquiries from Duma deputies if they visited units instead of relying on newspaper articles and information from the Internet.

Finally, for the first half of his interview, Serdyukov talked about launching Russia’s military police.  First, the MP garrison service will stand up, followed by disciplinary battalions and the military automobile inspectorate.  Troops from line units will no longer guard cargoes or bases, he said.  MPs will be responsible for order in garrisons.  He concluded:

“In my view, this will bring real changes in barracks life, it will fight barracks hooliganism.”

Serdyukov would say dedovshchina doesn’t exist, and he wouldn’t bring himself to say simply barracks violence.  But, in essence, he acknowledges that “real changes” in the barracks are needed. 

He said a Main Directorate of Military Police has been created and General-Lieutenant Surovikin will head it.  The MPs will have several thousand specially trained personnel, including possibly some officers now outside the shtat.

The Ayderkhanov Case (Part II)

According to Newsru.com, Aleksandr Vlasov concluded the traumas on Ayderkhanov’s body were inflicted while he was still alive, and the GVP’s statements about hitting the tree are a fiction without objective confirmation. 

Meanwhile, Ayderkhanov’s relatives organized a round-the-clock vigil at his grave to prevent anyone from stealing his body [i.e. the evidence].  Apparently, some people came looking for his grave on October 18, according to IA Rosbalt.

Ayderkhanov’s aunt told Radio Svoboda that he was full of life and not the type to commit suicide.  Nor was he likely to have conflicts with other soldiers.  She described what happened to her nephew as not just a beating,  but torture.  She said she knew the Yelan garrison had a bad record of conscript abuse.

Post-Mortem Photos

Ura.ru writes that this is the third army tragedy in the last six years for Ayderkhanov’s home village Araslanovo and its 800 inhabitants.  The grandson of a local reportedly hung himself while serving in 2005, and another boy ran away from his unit and was found frozen to death in 2008.

In late September, 500 people from Araslanovo (as well as nearby Shemakha, Mezhevaya, Tashkinovo and Skaz) signed an appeal asking President Medvedev to get to bottom of Ayderkhanov’s murder, and accusing his officers of concealing it.  The appeal asks if someone can really commit suicide after such savage punishment?  It notes Ayderkhanov wanted to serve, and even considered staying in the army as a contractee. 

The appeal asks when disorder in the Armed Forces will end, and claims everyone knows such a state of affairs exists not just in Ayderkhanov’s unit but in many others as well.  Finally, the appeal says the people of these villages are stopping the fall draft until order’s established in Ayderkhanov’s unit, and those guilty of beating and killing him are punished.

Despite some sympathy with the cause, the local military commissar has warned that draft evaders will be punished.

According to Ura, some locals believe Ayderkhanov was killed because he was Tatar.  Others who previously served in V / Ch 55062 say the unit was rife with nationalism, dedovshchina, and extortion.

It’s interesting and sad (perhaps not surprising though) that no wider social or political outrage — similar to what occurred in 2006 after the Andrey Sychev case — has developed over Ayderkhanov.

The Ayderkhanov Case (Part I)

Ruslan Ayderkhanov

Here’s what looks like a case where the beating death of a conscript is being passed off as another suicide in the ranks.  We addressed this here, and the tragic Ayderkhanov case broke into the news just 11 days later.  This sad story deserved attention sooner than your author was able to give it.

Thursday Newsru.com reported Ayderkhanov’s body has been exhumed for additional medical examination to determine the cause and circumstances of his death.  Official examiners as well as one independent expert, Aleksandr Vlasov, will take part in the process which, according to RIA Novosti, should take two weeks.

Newsru recapped the basic facts.  On August 31, the 20-year-old Ayderkhanov went missing from V / Ch 55062, part of the Yelan garrison, located in Poroshino, Chelyabinsk Oblast.  His body was found hanging from a tree in nearby woods on September 3.

The military authorities were quick to label this an obvious suicide, but his relatives were suspicious about injuries all over Ayderkhanov’s body.  He had teeth knocked out, a broken leg, a missing eye, a knife wound in his chest, and burns, bruises, and abrasions.

The Yelan garrison’s military prosecutor opened an Article 110 “Incitement to Suicide” investigation, but just as quickly announced there were no facts indicating violence or the “violation of the regulations on mutual relations” [i.e. abuse] against Ayderkhanov.  The prosecutor concluded the soldier was simply depressed about the death of his mother last winter. 

The Main Military Prosecutor stated categorically there was no evidence of a beating, and any injuries on Ayderkhanov’s body were from banging against the tree on which he hung himself.  The GVP categorically rejected the idea of exhuming and examining the body again.

Radio Svoboda quoted GVP directorate chief Aleksandr Nikitin:

“There is evidence that his death was not a result of violent actions.”

RIA Novosti continued from Nikitin:

“A close examination of the place of death and Ayderkhanov’s body was conducted.  The investigation established that there are not any traces of violence which could have caused the serviceman’s death on the body.”

Ruslan Ayderkhanov

Nakanune.ru quoted a Central MD spokesman:

“According to preliminary data, no facts of nonregulation relations have appeared.  But if the guilt of officials is proven, they will be punished in the most strict way.”

According to Radio Svoboda, after the GVP proved no help, Chelyabinsk’s human rights ombudsman approached Aleksandr Vlasov.  Vlasov has stated his professional opinion that Ayderkhanov was struck at least 18 times while he was still alive.

Part II tomorrow.

Exercise Casualties

Russia’s fall exercises took a toll on some conscripts participating in them.  Three were killed in Union Shield-2011 at Ashuluk, and two more may have died during Tsentr-2011.

Life.ru reports a conscript died on September 26 from injuries sustained in a fall from a railroad platform while loading equipment during Union Shield-2011.

According to IA Regnum, at Ashuluk on September 24, an automated command and control system operator, a draftee, was found dead in a KamAZ.  An officer and two conscripts had to wait for help overnight when their vehicle broke down.  One of the conscripts apparently died during the night. 

On September 20, a Russian attack aircraft fired an errant air-to-surface rocket that flew several kilometers from its intended target before exploding, killing one soldier and injuring a second.  IA Rosbalt also noted Ashuluk was the scene of an August 23 ordnance accident that killed eight soldiers.

News outlets and military spokesmen are publicly disputing whether two tank crewmen died of carbon monoxide poisoning while President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov reviewed the concluding phase of Tsentr-2011 at Chebarkul on September 27. 

According to Novyy region, a Chelyabinsk rights activist says two conscripts died and the military is trying to cover up the accident.  Another source says the two men are hospitalized in critical and serious condition respectively.  The army says the men were poisoned by powder gases during training before Tsentr, and will soon be discharged from the hospital.  The Central MD’s press-service says the exercise was conducted without incidents, accidents, or equipment failures.

Military prosecutors are investigating at least some of these incidents.

Suicide Watch (Part II)

Let’s look at more unusual suicide cases (or reported attempts).  Recall the story of Albert Kiyamov – beaten by a sergeant and pushed to his death from a barracks window in May 2010.  There’s still no word on the investigation or charges against the sergeant.  And there was a similar case reported in the same brigade after Kiyamov was killed.

While these seemed like isolated incidents, defenestrations apparently aren’t aberrations.  The authorities are hard-pressed to determine whether young soldiers are jumping or being pushed to cover up other crimes and violence. Suffice it to say the line between suicide and murder in the Russian Army is blurry. 

In late August, a conscript was beaten and thrown from the fourth floor of a barracks in the 35th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.  According to Newsru.com, the victim’s father, rights defenders, and other conscripts say two soldiers tried to take his personal items, uniform articles, and boots before beating and pushing him off the building.  He survived the fall, but broke his arms and legs. 

The military prosecutor determined there were “nonregulation relations” in the unit, and charges have been filed against the perpetrators.  But the prosecutor claims the victim jumped to escape his attackers, according to IA Regnum.

In mid-July, a conscript in a Railroad Troops brigade in Stavropol apparently argued with a major before the officer hit him several times with the butt of a rifle, according to Newsru.com.  The soldier then, according to the prosecutor’s account, jumped from the fifth story of his barracks sustaining numerous injuries including several broken bones.  His parents said he’d told them about this particular officer.  In somewhat uncharacteristic fashion, the major quickly acknowledged using force against the conscript, and was relieved of duty.  But no charges of forcing someone to attempt suicide.

In late May, a conscript hung himself in a unit in Mari El.  He was beaten before this because he refused to give other soldiers 1,000 rubles.  The victim’s parents believe these men killed their son.  The case is being investigated under Article 110 “Incitement to Suicide.”

In early February, a conscript in a unit near Orenburg was found dead in his bunk with a knife in his chest.  Two junior sergeants apparently killed the young man in a fight, then tried to make it look like suicide.

In mid-January, a conscript shot himself twice on a firing range at the training center in Yelan.  The confused incident has been classified variously as an accident, suicide, and murder.  According to Komsomolskaya pravda, the victim told his family he’d been forced to sign a request to serve in a unit in Tajikistan.

While most Russian Army suicide victims are conscripts, there are other cases, and other circumstances.  In mid-March, a warrant officer from a Moscow unit shot and killed his wife before turning the gun on himself.

Finally, a last poignant case, in early September, a young man jumped from the roof of a nine-story apartment block in Orel just days before he was due to report to his unit near Moscow.  It’s unknown why he killed himself or what he felt about going to serve.

Despite reducing conscription to one year and “humanizing” military service, the Russian Army remains a violent, dangerous place.  Conscription keeps it a lumpen army in which there are few limits, and the strong prey on the weak pretty much without restraint.  The violence remains a significant reason why those who can still avoid serving.

The Defense Ministry no longer publishes its monthly and yearly statistics on “noncombat losses,” crime, and accidents in the Armed Forces.  But it seems the suicide rate is as high as it was two, three, or four years ago – 20 some per month, and 200 or 250 suicides annually.  Still basically a full “suicide battalion” every year.  There’s just not enough public or political outrage to change the situation.