Category Archives: Rear Services

New Industrial-Logistical Complex

Moscow region’s Telekanal 360 station recently reported on Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s tour of the Russian military’s first “industrial-logistic complex.”

The first PLK [ПЛК] is located in Naro-Fominsk, not far from Moscow. The 450-acre facility reportedly will store 120 thousand tons of spare parts, to include vehicle engines, transmissions, treads, and tires, as well as other supplies.

The MOD is planning for throughput of 230 thousand tons of freight annually. The PLK will have a centralized dispatch service to provide more streamlined ordering for troop units.

Its first section — two 20,000-square-meter warehouses — was built in seven months. The second section is due for completion in September.  The MOD plans to construct more than 20 PLKs throughout the RF.

The first report on the military’s effort to build “industrial-logistic complexes” appeared in 2014. The initial complex was touted as being a public-private partnership including some commercial space. It was supposed to be finished before the end of 2015.

Announcing the effort, MOD rear services chief Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov said 24 new complexes would be erected before the end of 2018 to replace 400 obsolete military depots and warehouses. He also indicated that construction of one in Armavir (Krasnodar territory) had begun, and work on another in Khabarovsk was to start imminently.

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The Army Marches on its Trucks

ZIL-131

ZIL-131

A military establishment marches on its stomach, but the food that fills the stomach (and ammunition that fills the guns) marches on its trucks.

It seems each year there’s less quality Russian military journalism.  But exceptions arise.  Aleksey Ramm for one.  His work is interesting, fairly insightful, and apparently unbiased.

Ramm’s story not too long back on the pedestrian topic of Russian military trucks for VPK is provided for your edification in its entirety without interruption. Photos that didn’t appear in his article have been added.

“The Process is Stuck”

“The military and industrialists are not succeeding in unifying truck transport”

“Recently the appearance of the Kurganets BMP, Armata tank and heavy infantry fighting vehicle on its base has been actively discussed even on social networks.  And real problems with cargo vehicles, which no defense minister has been able to solve, are well-known to only a narrow circle of specialists.”

“‘Without automotive equipment not a single missile will fly, no airplane will take off, no tank will go, and the soldier will be left without ammunition and food. Trucks have to deliver fuel, lubricants, spare parts, etc.  They are making our tanks, buying airplanes, but problems with vehicles still aren’t being resolved,’ says an officer responsible for organizing logistics in the Southern Military District.”

“A Hereditary Disease”

“Until the transition to the so-called new profile begun by former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov in 2008, the vehicle park of the RF Armed Forces looked at first glance like a hodgepodge inheritance from the Soviet Army.  Not only models from manufacturers KamAZ and Ural, but also ZIL-131, GAZ-66, KrAZ and MAZ were in its equipment list.”

GAZ-66

GAZ-66

“Truck transport, which supports delivery of material resources, supplies of lubricants (POL), ammunition, etc., comes in companies for regiments and in material-technical support battalions for brigades and divisions (RMO and BMO).  Each company (or platoon) answers for conveyance of a concrete item. For example, the first company of a BMO (or platoon of an RMO) transports ammunition, and the fifth, equipped with tankers, transports fuel.”

“Armies and military districts have material-technical support brigades (BRMO) to organize material-technical support and transportation of material resources.”

“More than 70 percent of the vehicle transportation is constantly in depots, loaded with ammunition, POL and other cargo.”

“‘Of five companies in a BMO, 10-12 vehicles in all are used to support daily needs.  The rest stand in depots, fully loaded, fueled, but with batteries removed. During an alert, drivers come to depots, and drive already loaded vehicles to designated areas,’ the commander of one of the BMOs told VPK’s observer.”

“It’s true that the majority of vehicles standing in depots are in a pitiful state.  ‘When I served as commander of an ammunition transport company, I didn’t have a single fully serviceable vehicle.  Of course, all could go, complete a march, deliver the ammo.  But in many, the engine, the brakes had gone haywire, there were electrical problems.  We didn’t even have complete tents for the whole company.  All my KamAZes had already served 15 or even 20 years and only part of them had gone through a capital repair,’ recalls a vehicle service officer of one combined arms army.”

“Besides the RMO, BMO and BRMO, every battalion had material support platoons, into which go vehicle sections, and sometimes, if the battalion is an independent military unit, even entire platoons.  The mission of these sub-units is transporting material resources from battalion (company) material support depots directly to the front.”

“The transport system which has developed has divided the vehicle inventory.  The GAZ-66, ZIL-131 and Ural, used mainly by material support platoons and distinguished by their high mobility, are designated for supplying cargo, POL, and ammunition to the front.  Regimental RMOs, brigade BMOs, and also army and district BRMOs are practically fully equipped with KamAZes.”

“‘Vehicles of material support brigades and battalions have to complete long marches with big loads over distances of not less than 500-600 km, using regular roads.  Mobility isn’t as important to them as it is to those carrying cargo to the front.  So in this segment, KamAZ didn’t and doesn’t have competitors,’ says a Ministry of Defense Main Automotive and Armor Directorate (GABTU) officer.”

The entire country KamAZized

“‘In the mid-1990s, it already was clear that the Soviet system of four basic vehicle families was an unacceptable luxury for the Russian Army.  Each really has its own parts and components which are not interchangeable.  The ZIL-131 has a gas engine, but the Urals (with the exception of the 375D) are diesel.  So the decision to move to one universal type was made,’ explains the Main Automotive and Armor Directorate officer.”

“In 1998, the Ural Automotive Factory presented the Motovoz truck family for trial by the military, but because of drawn-out fine-tuning and financing problems the new Urals only began to enter troop use in 2006-2008.  As the producer announced, Motovoz was three practically 95 percent common vehicles — Ural-43206 (4×4), Ural-4320-31 (6×6) and Ural-5323 (8×8).”

Ural-4320-31

Ural-4320-31

“‘Only the two-axle Ural-43206 came to our division in 2008.  So we didn’t see the three- or four-axle Urals.  Even though according to initial plans, the Ural-43206 replaced the old Urals, ZIL-131 and GAZ-66 in the material support platoons of battalions, and the -4320 the transport KamAZes in divisional BMOs. We traveled in Motovozes less than six months, after which the order came to give them to depots and we received new KamAZes,’ recalls the automotive service officer.”

“With Anatoliy Serdyukov’s arrival, the Motovoz family fell into disfavor, and Kama Automotive Factory [KamAZ] Mustangs came to replace them.”

KamAZ-4350 Mustang

KamAZ-4350 Mustang

“‘It’s acceptable to abuse Serdyukov now.  Many say the transition to Mustang was connected with lobbying by KamAZ, which belongs to Rostekh, and possibly even with corrupt schemes.  But we have to recognize that only one model — Ural-43206 — was received from the Ural factory into the Motovoz family.  In my view, the ideal vehicle for transport to the front area.  Mobile, reliable, easily repaired.  But the three-axle Ural-4320-31 loses to KamAZ on the road by every indicator.  In essence, a suped up Ural-4320.  I don’t even want to talk about the four-axle.  A very capricious and unreliable vehicle,’ the vehicle service officer from the Southern Military District relates.”

“Three vehicles are in the Mustang family:  KamAZ-4350 (4×4), KamAZ-5350 (6×6) and KamAZ-6350 (8×8).  Supplies began at the end of 2008.”

“‘Currently there are practically neither old Ural-4320, nor ZIL-131, nor even GAZ-66.  A small number of Ural-43206, -4320-31 and -5323 received in 2008 remain.  The Motovozes were sufficiently fresh vehicles but were still written off early,’ the GABTU representative comments.”

“By several evaluations, currently approximately 80-90 percent of the Russian MOD truck inventory is Mustang, 10-15 percent Motovoz, and the rest is remaining and still not written off ZIL-131, GAZ-66, etc.  The MOD’s transition to a single vehicle took a little less than seven years.  In the opinion of almost all representatives of the vehicle service with whom this publication managed to talk, it was able to do this only thanks to the great production capacity of the Kama Automotive Factory and its developed service centers.”

“Mustang ridden too hard”

“‘If you compare the old brigade with different types of trucks, thanks to the Mustangs the tonnage of transported cargo has increased recently.  Because of the commonality of vehicles, going up to 90-95 percent, they succeeded in significantly cutting supplies of parts and components essential for repair, and also in standardizing the list of POL,’ says the GABTU representative.  ‘I can’t name the real figures but believe me:  the capabilities for ‘lifting’ material resources have grown a lot at the present time.'”

“But among the troops they don’t hurry to draw the same optimistic conclusions.  ‘The KamAZ-4350 came to replace Urals in the material-technical support platoons of battalions.  In exercises where they still have factory service centers, all look very good. Everything is much more complicated in real life,’ the Western Military District vehicle officer is sure.”

“In the opinion of all troop officers Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer surveyed, the KamAZ-4350 has not become an adequate replacement for the old Ural family.  ‘In mobility it lags behind the old Ural-4320, meanwhile it does not carry as much of a load.  Simultaneously these vehicles got stuck during off-road exercises in places where the Ural would have gotten through without any problems.  KamAZ has outstanding trucks, but for normal roads,’ the commander of a material-technical support battalion is sure.”

“The spring and summer of last year became especially tense when Russian Armed Forces units and sub-units moved out from permanent basing points to the Ukrainian border, operating completely without the support of repair centers.  All this publication’s interlocutors noted one more problem which appeared during the spring-summer of standing at the border, the -4350 breaks down often.”

“‘This vehicle must operate practically at the front line.  But it is packed electronics that constantly break down.  Even a platoon driver’s capabilities were enough to subdue the Ural.  Here they have to call in specialists.  Once such a vehicle was stuck in the middle of the training ground, and we dragged it from here only after a week.  Yet another problem is the turbine diesel in this KamAZ.  The turbine constantly goes out of order, breaks down.  We just manage to send it off for repair,’ complains a vehicle service officer.”

“In service centers, they do not share the military’s claims against the KamAZ-4350, arguing that the majority of damages happen through the fault of servicemen using the equipment.”

“‘Automotive equipment is developing, new technologies are appearing.  But the military wants everything to be as ‘in grandma’s time.’  The problem with the turbine is not the factory’s fault.  In the instructions it says before turning off the engine, the driver should give it some time to idle.  The military will kill the engine right away, and the turbine suddenly locks up.  But the factory’s to blame,’ complains an associate of one of the service enterprises answering for the repair of KamAZ vehicles.”

“At present, a paradoxical situation is forming where brigade BMOs, army and district BRMOs have increased by many times their capabilities to ‘lift’ and transport supplies, but providing cargo directly to sub-units at the front line is not always successful.”

“A view from the other side”

“In the Ministry of Internal Affairs they tried to find an exit from the vehicle deadend by combining the capabilities of the Motovoz and Mustang families.”

“‘We mainly use six-axle [sic, wheel?] Ural-4320-31, and sometimes Ural-43206s for units and sub-units fulfilling combat service missions in the transport of material resources directly to the area where they are employed in the North Caucasus.  Police detachments working in the region also use these vehicles,’ said an Internal Troops representative.  To transport cargo at great distances, according to our interlocutor, six-axle [sic, wheel?] KamAZ-5350s are already in active service.”

“‘We have the KamAZ-4350s, but the Ural-4320-31s are better suited to conditions in the Caucasus.  They are much more mobile and powerful in conditions of difficult mountain and considerably rugged terrain.  And, for supplying sub-units stationed a great distance away, and fulfilling missions in securing important state facilities, we also use Urals,’ the MVD VV representative answers.”

“From one side, the decision to unite two families in a single vehicle inventory is clear and logical.  Motovoz and Mustang duplicate one another to a sufficiently limited degree.  From the other, several families of trucks again appear in the force requiring separate supplies of parts and components.  VPK’s sources in the MVD acknowledge the problem.  ‘Only Mustangs and Motovozes would be good, but we still have a pretty large number of different armored vehicles and other special equipment,’ the Internal Troops representative laments.”

“‘The problem will be resolved with the acceptance of the future Tayfun and Platform vehicle families into the inventory, work on which is currently ongoing,’ the GABTU representative explained.”

Tayfun

Tayfun

“‘There were many conversations about Platform.  They talked like it was even shown to the defense minister on the test range at Bronnitsy.  But there still aren’t even photos of a prototype.  They say everything is secret.  But what’s the sense of keeping a truck secret?  It’s bull.  There still isn’t a series Tayfun [sic, Platform?].  But there are experimental prototypes of it.  We went through all this already. For several years in a row they assured us that they were fixing equipment for us and factory workers towed it off.  As a result, when the normal work began and the equipment began to break down, everyone looked at it like little kids,’ says the vehicle officer.”

“So for more than seven years the problem of the disparity of the Russian Armed Forces’ truck equipment inventory still has not been conclusively resolved.  The situation is like running in circles.  One can still hope that with the acceptance of future families of vehicles into the inventory the problem will finally be resolved.”

Just a little post-script.  The Tayfun is in serial production.  It’s in the inventory of the RVSN and Spetsnaz units in the Southern MD.  Series-produced Mustangs have been in the inventory since 2003.  The Western MD reports that 30 percent of its vehicle inventory is now less than three years old with the addition of 6,000 Motovoz and KamAZ trucks since 2012.  It also claimed it was slated to have 50 Tayfuns before the end of 2014.  Tayfuns were prominent in today’s Victory Parade as were Mustangs.

Defense Ministry Collegium

Serdyukov Flanked by Makarov and Pankov

November’s the time for year-end evaluations in the Russian military, and the Defense Ministry had its collegium yesterday.  Mil.ru printed Defense Minister Serdyukov’s introductory remarks.

First on his mind was complete fulfillment of the State Defense Order next year, and signing all GOZ-2012 contracts next month.  He said all responsibility for ordering will be transferred to a “Federal Procurement Agency.”

Some media sources assumed this means Rosoboronpostavka.  This author thinks it could be something new.  It’s important, so here’s exactly what Mil.ru says he said:

“Next year the functions of the ordering organ are being fully transferred to the Federal Procurement Agency.”

If that means Rosoboronpostavka, why not just say Rosoboronpostavka?  ITAR-TASS actually replaced Serdyukov’s words “Federal Procurement Agency” with Rosoboronpostavka.  At the very least, not everyone’s working from the same sheet of music.  But continuing with Serdyukov’s remarks . . .

Unlike large-scale strategic exercises of recent years, the coming year will stress tactical-level training.  But Southern MD exercises will test the new Armed Forces command and control system.

He noted establishment of VVKO by December 1, and said it will “intercept any targets right up to hypersonic speeds, both in the air and in space.”

Military police will start working in the troops in 2012, according to Serdyukov.  They are still occupied at present with selecting personnel, writing regs, etc.  Serdyukov earlier said they’d be functioning in 2011.

The Defense Minister indicated all service functions in the Armed Forces will be outsourced next year.

Without much fanfare, he said the new system of enlisted contract service will start in 2012.

Serdyukov said stimulus pay for officers will continue alongside their newly-approved higher pay.

First Deputy Defense Minister, Chief of the General Staff Nikolay Makarov delivered the collegium’s main report, but the press wasn’t invited to stay.

Meanwhile, today NG sources “don’t exclude” that Anatoliy Serdyukov could soon leave the Defense Ministry to become Finance Minister.  There’s talk Russia’s NATO Permrep Dmitriy Rogozin could succeed him as Defense Minister [because he toured the 58th Army with Medvedev this week].

There are always rumors like these.  Recently it was said Makarov would be “sacrificed” as an electoral offering to military men who don’t like him.  Sometimes the rumors bear out, sometimes not.  More important are the reasons behind any personnel changes. 

Is Putin or Medvedev likely to find a more effective steward of the military than Serdyukov?  Probably not.  The fiery politician Rogozin would be a dramatic change from the retiring technocrat Serdyukov.  The former would inspire and appeal to the troops more than the latter, but not do a better job.  Of course, we shouldn’t assume capability is the leadership’s most important criterion in picking a Defense Minister.

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.”

Not Utopia

Burned Out Building in Urman Near the 99th Arsenal (photo: Komsomolskaya pravda / Timur Sharipkulov)

Yes, it’s definitely not utopia.

Sometimes it seems Anatoliy Serdyukov resides in a special dystopia reserved for reformers.  In an interview at the very end of last year, Serdyukov said as much.  He admitted his reform of the military isn’t solving every problem.

Addressing munitions dismantlement on December 31, the Defense Minister said:

“The problem is very serious.  For long years, munitions were stockpiled to excess, calculated for a multimillion-man army.  Besides, in the last twenty years, virtually no attention was given to combat training and firings, but the norms of munitions stockpiling remained as before.  As a result, so much ended up in excess that we have work for several years.  To dismantle them by industrial methods is quite complex – there aren’t enough enterprises.  Besides, this is very expensive and not safer than destruction.”

“Therefore, we’re now preparing special teams, certifying equipment, and selecting officers.  They mainly need to be combat engineers.  We’re picking ranges.  We’ve figured where, in what volume, and what we need to blow up, and worked out safe techniques.  We need at a minimum two, maybe three years of such work.  Yes, this will create some temporary discomfort and difficulties.  But it’s impossible to not do this.  If the entire arsenal at Ulyanovsk had blown up, the trouble would have been much more serious.”

Well, he’s right.  It’s a huge problem that has to be resolved. 

There was lots of good (albeit repetitive) news reporting on the two arsenal explosions, and the news analyses and op-eds had a lot of common themes we’ll summarize below.  Many of the same points were made at the time of the 31st Arsenal disaster in 2009.  The major shared ideas are:

  • Russia’s munitions depot problem is enormous, and massive resources are required to resolve it.  The current effort is very belated, and probably grossly underfinanced.  And now the dismantlement and destruction of excess ammunition is being rushed with tragic consequences.
  • Conscripts and crude methods are being employed in place of professional military specialists, civilian experts, and modern equipment.  There’s a willingness to ignore basic safety regulations since draftees are still considered expendable.
  • Military district commanders were not appropriately prepared to supervise storage depots and the dangerous work of eliminating explosives when they took control of them from the Defense Ministry’s Main Missile-Artillery Directorate (GRAU). 
  • The three criticisms above all add to blaming Serdyukov’s reforms for the exploding arsenals.  Critics say he’s rushed the process, forced now sorely-needed ordnance officers out of the army, and taken the situation out of the GRAU’s experienced hands.

Now, to be fair, some of the conditions listed above existed before Serdyukov arrived, and some he created or exacerbated.  And arsenals exploded before.  But these disasters seem to occur more frequently now.

A few other points made by commentators:

  • Trying to destroy munitions on the cheap is leading to even greater losses for the state when it has to compensate injured civilians.
  • Other countries have eliminated huge munitions stockpiles safely, but Russia seems to have a peculiar national tradition of technological carelessness that keeps it from doing the same.
  • The Kremlin and the Defense Ministry won’t find the guilty in these explosions, but some officers and, possibly, officials, will be appointed to fill the role.

Moreover, the MChS says wildfires already cover an area three times larger than this time last year.  Another terrible fire season might threaten many military facilities, including arsenals.

To sum this all up, it’s worth reprinting how Vladislav Shurygin was recapped on these pages 18 months ago:

“He cites the catastrophic state of Russia’s overflowing arsenals and munitions depots.  This summer Serdyukov transferred responsibility for them from the GRAU to the MDs and fleets who aren’t technically prepared to manage them.  Shurygin notes it was GRAU personnel who were punished for the November blasts at the Navy’s arsenal in Ulyanovsk.  Convenient people are punished rather than those who are truly guilty, according to him.”

Off With Their Pogonies!

Friday's Security Council Session

Dmitriy Medvedev’s asked again for the heads (or pogonies) of the guilty.  A couple weeks after his government delivered several of those allegedly responsible for breaking the GOZ, he’s ordered Defense Minister Serdyukov to tear the pogonies (officer’s shoulderboards or погоны) off those to blame for massive munitions depot explosions in Udmurtia and Bashkortostan.

It is, of course, quite a presidential thing to do.

Let’s look at how the fairly one-sided conversation went.

In the published opening moments of Friday’s Security Council session at Gorki, Medvedev had to forego mentioning anything about the G8, missile defense, and Libya in order to focus instead on the depot explosions:

“. . . I would like to turn the Defense Minister’s attention to the fact that we are for the second time recently experiencing ‘doomsday’:  shells exploding, there are injured, missing.  We conducted a special meeting on this issue the year before last I think.”

“Afterwards the situation was on the whole, in my view, under control:  we succeeded in arranging the work of supervisory structures, naturally, after dismissing a whole row of Defense Ministry colleagues.  But everything’s come loose again, some problems have arisen again.”

“Two times — this is already systemic, Anatoliy Eduardovich.  Prepare a proposal for me on who should answer for this and how.  They still don’t understand well — for two years everything was OK, — this means we have to take somebody’s shoulderboards off again.”

“Conduct an investigation.  Naturally, the Investigative Committee [under the General Prosecutor] and other units [FSB] are conducting an independent investigation, and together present me with proposals and organizational conclusions.”

For its part, the Defense Ministry insists it’s not being hasty.  Its spokesman told ITAR-TASS:

“Aiming for a full and objective investigation of the circumstances which have occurred in the TsVO, a Defense Ministry commission under the leadership of Deputy Chief of the RF VS General Staff, General-Colonel Valeriy Gerasimov has been sent.” 

“Based on the results of the conduct of the entire complex of verification measures by the military department’s commission jointly with investigative organ representatives and the military prosecutor, the causes of what happened will be established and the responsibility of officials will be determined.  Only after the checks are finished will concrete decisions, including personnel ones, regarding the guilty be adopted.”

Explosions at the 102nd Arsenal (photo: NTV)

Of course, today’s papers were full of speculation about who might get the blame and the boot for these disasters.  But, as usual, it’s not likely any dismissals will reach highly-placed officers and officials who are truly responsible for the sloppy, breakneck campaign to destroy Russia’s massive stockpiles of old shells and ammunition.

There’s lots more interesting commentary relevant to these most recent arsenal explosions.  Unfortunately, your patience will be required.

Another Exploding Ammo Dump

Another Depot Burns and Explodes

This time it’s the 99th Artillery Depot in Bashkortostan.  A fire during the decommissioning of 120mm shells caused the conflagration.  Residents of the nearest populated area, Urman, have been evacuated.  Fragments are flying 3-4 kilometers in all directions.  At least it wasn’t a heavily or densely populated zone.

Here’s RIA Novosti video of the scene.  The press service provided handy background on depot explosions over the last ten years.

And the Defense Ministry had just finished announcing that 20,000 rail cars’ worth of old stocks of munitions for World War III were destroyed during the last year.  But apparently not quickly or safely enough.

Such is the fate of a military reformer . . . Defense Minister Serdyukov’s doing the right thing, getting rid of this old Cold War-era excess, but stockpiles keep blowing up in the very process of trying to eliminate them.  And, as noted before, Serdyukov isn’t making any friends in localties near the demolition work.

Destroying old ammo is necessary, but the Russian military also needs to move faster on the effort to move depots away from cities and towns, and to construct more secure storage facilities.  Both more costly than just blowing up old stuff.

Meanwhile, managers and workers in Russia’s munitions industry have been pretty upset this year that their orders were drastically cut.  They’d obviously prefer to continue working and adding to the stockpile.  See Vladimir Mukhin’s article on this from March.