Tag Archives: Dedovshchina

Story of the Year

What was the Russian military story of 2019? Here are some possibilities:

  • The July 1 fire aboard the AS-31 “Losharik” — a secret deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine — which cost the lives of fourteen Russian Navy officers, two of whom were already Heroes of the Russian Federation.
  • The August 8 explosion near the Nenoksa test range in which seven Russian nuclear technicians died and others were severely irradiated, apparently while salvaging a nuclear-powered 9M730 Burevestnik (SSC-X-9 Skyfall) cruise missile that fell into Dvina Bay.
  • The December 12 fire aboard aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov caused by careless welding that killed two and injured 12 and could cost 95 billion rubles to repair. The ill-fated ship is already in an expensive overhaul and was damaged when it pulled away from its massive floating drydock in 2018.

But the real story — the tragedy — of the year is Ramil Shamsutdinov’s rampage. On October 25, the conscript killed eight fellow servicemen and wounded two more at his unit in Gornyy.

Ramil Shamsutdinov

Ramil Shamsutdinov

His unit belongs to the MOD’s 12th GUMO — Russia’s nuclear weapons custodian. Gornyy is a “closed administrative-territorial entity” (ZATO) — a high-security area off-limits to all but personnel working in the facility.

He shot down officers, contractees, and conscripts at the end of his guard shift while they were unloading their weapons.

Only contractees are pulling guard duty there now, and, according to NVO,  the unit will be disbanded and another will take its place.

NVO reported in early December that the MOD is extending its investigation into the case, and moving off its initial assertion that Shamsutdinov suffered a nervous breakdown because of “personal circumstances unconnected with his military service.”

Then the General Procuracy announced on December 24 that military prosecutors are investigating more than 40 units in Russia’s Transbaykal region following Shamsutdinov’s shooting spree. The procuracy spokesman said:

Simultaneously with overseeing observance of the law in the investigation of this crime, Main Military Procuracy, together with the RVSN’s military procuracy, in coordination with the task group established by the RF Minister of Defense for this crime, has organized joint investigative measures covering more than 40 military units.

He added that “making final conclusions about why Shamsutdinov committed the crime, and also about the conditions leading to it would be premature before the end of the investigation.”

According to his lawyer, Shamsutdinov committed the crime because of criminal hazing by his commanders and fellow servicemen. He and several other soldiers in his unit were victims of violence and dedovshchina [the rule of the ‘grandfathers’ or senior soldiers, officially known as non-regulation relations between servicemen]. At least one of their reported tormentors is alive and has been formally charged.

This account of the Shamsutdinov case appeared in the MOD newspaper Krasnaya zvezda. So the Russian high command is pretty much on-board with these facts to date. It’s surprising the MOD would decide to look into another 40 units where similar grievous events could occur. 

As Paul Goble observed the day after the murders at Gornyy, dedovshchina and violence in the ranks hasn’t receded into the past with the institution of one-year conscription making the difference between old and new draftees less pronounced or with the influx of “professional” contract soldiers.

He pointed to Ura.news which reported that the Transbaykal is an extremely remote backwater where bad officers often turn up. The same might be said of the entire Eastern MD. The distance to headquarters, poor communications and transportation, especially in winter, also weaken the chain of command. However, this happened in a unit with a critically serious mission.

An MOD source told Izvestiya in November the military will try to uncover problems in units by establishing a “sociological center” in each MD. Its personnel will assess the “moral-political situation” or MPS of units. Commanders reportedly will be accountable for a unit’s poor MPS up to and including dismissal.

He Simply Couldn’t Take It

Shamsutdinov detained in his barracks

Shamsutdinov detained in his barracks

Russian Army conscript Ramil Shamsutdinov may have killed his fellow servicemen because of the constant abuse he endured, according to a report in Gazeta.ru.

On October 25, Ramil Shamsutdinov killed eight personnel (including two officers) and seriously wounded two more during guard duty shift change at military unit 54160 in the Gornyy ZATO not far from Chita in Zabaykalye.

According to a former worker at the unit, one of the victims was “famous” for abusing his subordinates. Sources also said Shamsutdinov may have been ridiculed or singled out as a non-Russian. But the investigation on that score continues.

The 20-year-old was called up in early July, assessed to be psychologically stable, and allowed to carry a weapon. The draft board had placed him in the second group for “nervous-psychological stability” meaning he would experience a nervous breakdown only after being in a difficult or dangerous situation for a prolonged period. The MOD routinely trusts conscripts in this group to carry out missions with weapons and ordnance.

The MOD officially stated that Shamsutdinov’s actions may have been the result of a breakdown brought on by personal difficulties unrelated to his military service.

But, according to Gazeta.ru, media sources with sources in Shamsutdinov’s unit claim he was a target of constant abuse from other servicemen.

Tyumen news outlet 72.ru published a report from a unit source saying that one of Shamsutdinov’s victims, Senior Lieutenant Danil Pyankov, was well-known for abusing conscripts and driving them to a “serious psychological state.” Shamsutdinov is from a village in Tyumen.

The source said Pyankov once kept him awake studying military regulations for four days straight and forced his troops to put on and take off protective gear for five consecutive hours. He concluded Shamsutdinov simply couldn’t take it.

Shamsutdinov’s father — a policeman — said his son never complained about abuse from officers or more senior soldiers, i.e. dedovshchina. Friends say he once asked relatives to put money on someone else’s bank card because his was supposedly frozen. But he also said he planned to stay in the army as a contractee.

Unit 54160 is inside a closed administrative-territorial entity. It was formerly known as Chita-46 and is operated by the MOD’s 12th GUMO — Russia’s nuclear weapons custodial force.

It served the RVSN’s 4th Missile Division equipped with UR-100 (SS-11 / Sego) ICBMs at Drovyanaya in the 1960s and 1970s. In the late 1970s and 1980s, it transitioned to RSD-10 (SS-20 / Saber) IRBMs, then to mobile RT-2PM (SS-25 / Sickle) ICBMs before disbanding in 2002.

The unit is still under GUMO command and RVSN prosecutors went to investigate. It likely serves the 200th Artillery Brigade and newly-established 3rd Missile Brigade (Iskander missiles) in Gornyy and Drovyanaya.

The Russian military has avoided similar incidents for some time. The MOD claims the climate inside units and barracks has improved drastically over the past decade, but this assessment is apparently exaggerated.

With the fall draft underway, the MOD has to question the quality, or lack of quality, in the screening of potential soldiers. 

A Conscript’s Year

A Picture for Ufimtsev’s Demob Album

Young Komsomolskaya pravda (Chelyabinsk) journalist Sergey Ufimtsev returned from conscript service in May.  He recently published a cheerful, humorous account of time as a soldier.  He doesn’t regret his wasted year in the army.  But he describes an army that Serdyukov’s (and Putin’s) reforms have not changed substantially.  At least not his remote unit, and probably many others as well.

Ufimtsev drew his ill-fitting uniform items and was sent to Ussuriysk in the Far East.  He describes skimpy rations which left him hungry again an hour later.

Officers left Ufimtsev and other new soldiers largely in the hands of senior conscripts, the dedy.  They still exist despite the fact that one-year conscription was supposed to eliminate them.  Ufimtsev says dedy took their new uniforms and cigarettes, and threatened them at times.  But they weren’t really so bad.  He actually learned from the soldiers who’d been around for six months.

The non-Russians, Tuvans and Dagestanis, in the unit and their petty exactions were worse.  Even officers feared them, according to Ufimtsev.

He goes on to describe training in his air defense battalion.  He got bloody blisters from endless close-order drill, and finally received his unloaded AK-74, which he cleaned often but never fired.  It was kept with others under seven locks in the weapons storage room.

This is why Serdyukov didn’t want to buy new automatic weapons for the army.  It already has massive stockpiles of unused ones.

Ufimtsev says he and his cohorts were kept busy with non-military work.  Money to hire civilians into housekeeping jobs apparently hadn’t reached his unit.  His battery commander took most of their meager monthly personal allowance (about $13) to go to “the needs of the sub-unit.”  The soldiers, mostly farm boys or technical school graduates, wore lice-infested underwear and got to bathe once per month.  The situation improved some when a new major took command, according to Ufimtsev.

Ufimtsev’s article drew so many comments that it’s possible only to summarize.

A few readers were critical of today’s youth.  One called them dolts, who cry to mom and dad, and wimps, not defenders of the fatherland.  Another says real men should be silent about the privations of army life.

Many readers drew the obvious conclusion that the author’s experience shows Russia needs an all-volunteer army.

One reader said, in a couple of months at home, he could train soldiers better for less.  He asks, “What’s the sense in such an army?”  Several commentators remarked that generals’ complaints about a lack of money for recruiting career military professionals is a lie.

One reader put it in the context of Yevgeniya Vasilyeva and the Oboronservis scandal that brought down Anatoliy Serdyukov:

“No, they won’t do away with conscription.  There’s no money.  They lost their conscience in their 13-room apartments and can’t find it.  But then they never will.  They have to decide which of 120 diamond rings to wear today.  Therefore, there’s no money for a professional army, and there won’t be.  And so there will be an army of slaves — it’s so expedient and cheap.”

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from August 6, 7, and 8, 2012 . . .

Sukhorukov’s Press Conference (photo: Mil.ru)

Mil.ru provided a wrap on the First Deputy Defense Minister’s press-conference on GPV-2020.

Sukhorukov “particularly turned attention” to media reports that the program’s funding will be cut.  He told journalists such a step isn’t foreseen, and the government is talking only about “optimizing” the budget load between years by using good old state-guaranteed credits for the OPK.

Sukhorukov claims 95 percent of GOZ-2012 has been contracted, and 82 percent of funds disbursed.

Arms-expo.ru also covered this story.  It emphasized Sukhorukov’s statement that the rate of defective arms delivered by producers isn’t declining.

According to RIAN, Sukhorukov said Russia won’t buy more Israeli UAVs beyond its current contract.  He reiterated the Defense Ministry believes the BMD-4M doesn’t meet its requirements, and won’t buy it.

Sukhoy reports it’s now testing the new Tikhomirov phased array radar on PAK FA, T-50-3 to be exact.  See RIAN’s story.

Sukhoy also announced that its Su-35S is in “combat employment” testing within the process of state acceptance testing at GLITs.  The company says it meets all established requirements, and has flown more than 650 times.

New Navy CINC, Vice-Admiral Chirkov made an interesting visit to the State Missile Center named for Academic V. P. Makeyev on Monday.  The Makeyev design bureau is home, of course, to liquid-fueled SLBM development.  Could not find the last time this happened.  Might be prior to 2007.

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy told the GenProk collegium yesterday that abuse or dedovshchina in the ranks is down a third this year.  But, according to ITAR-TASS, Fridinskiy noted that general crimes exceed purely military offenses by a factor of two.  Specifically, he said murders are up by half, bribery has almost doubled, and drug offenses have increased 27 percent.

Fridinskiy also said nearly 3,000 GOZ corruption cases and losses worth 400 million rubles were investigated in the first half of this year.  He said, for example, Dagdizel received 3 billion rubles in defense orders, but hasn’t sent a single product to the military, and bought farm equipment and building materials with the money.  He cited losses in purchasing apartments for military men at inflated prices as well as the problem of unfinished housing projects.

Izvestiya claims a large number of young pilots are leaving the Air Forces because the lion’s share of increased flight hours and promised higher pay are going to their commanders and older officers.  Could this be a continuation of Igor Sulim’s travails at Lipetsk?  The paper also reports a number of cleaning companies say the Defense Ministry owes them 5 billion rubles for housekeeping work outsourced over the last year.

Army Polls

Happy Defender’s Day!

Taking a break from Putin’s defense manifesto, let’s look at this year’s opinion polls on the army’s big holiday.

Levada’s poll is not so interesting this year.  Responses to its questions generally fell within the 3.4 percent margin of error of last year’s survey

But the number of respondents who thought drafted family members should find a way to avoid serving fell from 41 to 36 percent this year. 

People also indicated a slightly greater belief that dedovshchina is more prevalent in the army.  This year 19 percent think it happens everywhere  against 13 percent in 2011.  Those believing it occurs in a small number of military units dipped from 27 to 23 percent this year.

VTsIOM’s results were actually a little more interesting.

The agency reported again this year that 55 percent of respondents felt the Russian Army is capable of defending the country against a military threat.  But on the current training of troops, 30 percent saw positive tendencies, 30 percent negative tendencies, and 29 percent said they don’t see any changes.

A surprising 68 percent, according to VTsIOM, believe the level of outfitting of Russian forces with modern arms and equipment is average or higher.  Still, 72 percent feel equipping the army with more modern weapons is needed to increase combat readiness (?!).

Some 68 percent of respondents were aware, to one degree or another, of Russia’s military reforms.  Sixty-seven percent consider them essential.

VTsIOM, unfortunately, didn’t publish its exact questions and responses to each; it just aggregates its results in a verbal description.

But it did show us one full question.  Are the transformations introduced into the Armed Forces essential or not essential for increasing the army’s combat capability?  The answers:

  • Essential but insufficient — 55 percent.
  • Essential and sufficient — 12 percent.
  • Not essential, better to end them — 8 percent.
  • Hard to answer — 24 percent.

Curious Coincidence

Danila Chaykin

IA Regnum reported today that a Russian conscript serving in Tajikistan apparently shot himself to death on January 29 while pulling guard duty.  A sad though fairly routine occurrence.  The reasons are unclear.  The unfortunate young man, Danila Chaykin, seemed to be doing well in the service.

But Chaykin wasn’t just any conscript.  He previously served alongside Ruslan Ayderkhanov in the Yelan military garrison.  You’ll recall several months ago Ayderkhanov was apparently savagely beaten before his attackers hanged him to make it look like he committed suicide.

According to the press agency, Chaykin was a witness in whatever investigation of Ayderkhanov’s death took place.  But Ayderkhanov’s case was closed when military investigators almost unbelievably concluded there was no evidence of dedovshchina or other barracks violence.  They say he hung himself for personal reasons.

Recapping Interfaks and Life.ru coverage, Lenta says military officials suggest Chaykin took his life because his girlfriend married someone else.  But his friends say he didn’t have a girl, and he was due to demob in a couple months.  Meanwhile, Life.ru claims Chaykin had six gunshot wounds on his body.

Lenta’s version says Chaykin and Ayderkhanov were friends, and the former was questioned about the latter’s death.  Then they transferred Chaykin to Tajikistan.

Transfers of one-year conscripts are pretty rare in the Russian Army, though not unheard of when it comes to manning units in Tajikistan.

It seems a really curious coincidence that Chaykin too would kill himself.  Or was it a move to silence an inconvenient witness?

It’s odd too that the Ayderkhanov case — a case of patently obvious abuse –would die so quietly and completely.

Why does the Russian military, or someone higher up, want to conceal the truth about what happened at Yelan?  The authorities are very nervous about crimes that take place on a “national” [i.e. ethnic] basis.  It’s been postulated that Ayderkhanov was targeted because he was Tatar.

As recently as five or six years ago, there were people who would fight for answers and accountability.  One fears there are fewer today.  Maybe fear itself is greater now.

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.