Tag Archives: MVD

Simmering War

Not Crimea, the North Caucasus (photo: RIA Novosti)

Not Crimea, the North Caucasus (photo: RIA Novosti)

Russian news agencies marked the 15th anniversary of the Unified Group of Troops (Forces) — OGV(s) or ОГВ(с) — in the North Caucasus on September 23.

The OGV(s) was, and is, the inter-service headquarters established at Khankala, Chechnya to command all Russian “power” ministry (MOD, MVD, FSB) operations at the start of what became the second Chechen war in 1999.

The war that would bring Vladimir Putin to prominence and the presidency, and preoccupy him during his first years in power.

The ITAR-TASS headline proclaimed:  “The OGV in the Caucasus has killed more than 10,000 fighters over 15 years.”

Fighters means insurgents or terrorists from Moscow’s perspective.

That’s a lot.  On average, even through today, over 600 per year, or at least a couple every day.  Earlier this year, a news headline read “Russian MVD has killed more than 350 fighters in 4 months.”

Six Killed in Makhachkala (photo: ITAR-TASS)

The body count isn’t the only metric.

The MVD noted that OGV(s) units have conducted more than 40,000 “special measures,” destroyed 5,000 bases and caches, confiscated 30,000 weapons, and disarmed 80,000 explosive devices.

The Hero of the Russian Federation has been awarded to 93 MVD servicemen in the OGV(s) (including 66 posthumously).  More than 23,000 MVD troops have received orders and medals.

And the disparate North Caucasus insurgency still simmers.

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Tsentr-2011

Tsentr-2011

Yesterday Russia and allied military forces in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO or ODKB) began a series of exercise events which will run until the beginning of October.

Operational-strategic exercise Tsentr-2011 will involve Russian forces and Belorussian, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Armenian sub-units in different training scenarios focused on ensuring security on the Central Asian axis, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta.

Twelve thousand personnel, 50 aircraft, 1,000 vehicles and other equipment, and ten combat and support ships will participate under the direction of Russian General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, according to Mil.ru.  Russian forces will include one army brigade as well as operational groups from other militarized agencies — the MVD, FSB, FSO, and MChS.    

Mil.ru said the exercise theme is “Preparation and Employment of Inter-Service Troop (Force) Groupings in the Stabilization of a Situation and Conduct of Military Actions on the Central Asian Strategic Axis.”

NG cites Makarov who said the exercise will focus on “localizing internal as well as external conflicts.” Extrapolating from his earlier comments about North Africa and the Middle East, the paper claims he wants the army to be ready to perform internal police functions like the Syrian Army.

Mil.ru puts it more technically saying the exercise will improve command and staff skills in controlling troops in the transition to wartime, in planning special operations, and in organizing long-distance troop regroupings.  Exercise phases will include special operations to localize an armed conflict in a crisis region, and joint actions by ground and naval force groupings, according to the Defense Ministry website.

The exercise will consist of different evolutions, with different partners, in various locations:

  • The Ground Troops, MVD, and FSB Spetsnaz, writes NG, will practice liberating a town from terrorists and rebels on the Chebarkul training range. 
  • At Gorokhovets, Russia’s 20th Army and Belorussian forces are playing a series of tactical actions against enemy airborne assaults, specops, and “illegal armed formations” in their rear areas [under a separate exercise called Union Shield-2011 or Shchit Soyuza-2011]. 
  • Russian forces are training with Kazakhs on the Caspian, and at Kazakhstan’s Oymasha range.
  • A command-staff exercise of the ODKB’s Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (KSOR) will be conducted at the Lyaur range in Tajikistan.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, the ODKB’s Central Asian Region Collective Rapid Deployment Forces (KSBR TsAR) will conduct a tactical exercise against “illegal armed formations.”

NG sums Tsentr-2011 up with a quote from Vladimir Popov:

“The Russian leadership, although late, has come to the conclusion that the successful resolution of military security issues, including the internal security of allied countries, is possible only through the creation and use of coalition troop groupings in the post-Soviet space.   This is correct, and there’s no need to fear this.”

Developing some collective military intervention capability doesn’t answer questions about real-world conditions where it might be employed.  The questions proceed mainly (but not entirely) from Kyrgyzstan’s experience.  First, will a threatened regime ask for ODKB assistance and under what circumstances?  Second, will the alliance or any allies answer a member-state’s call?  Training and exercises are good, but ultimately not much use unless such political issues are resolved.

Premium Corruption

Senior Lieutenant Igor Sulim

Senior Lieutenant Igor Igoryevich Sulim joins the ranks of new media whistleblowers (most recently, MVD Majors Matveyev and Dymovskiy).

This 24-year-old senior flight-instructor of the Air Forces’ elite 4th Combat Employment and Retraining Center in Lipetsk has gone public complaining of corruption, specifically his commander’s systematic extortion of premium pay from his subordinates. 

Sulim made the charges in an open letter to Defense Minister Serdyukov, Investigative Committee Chairman Bastrykin, and VVS CINC General-Colonel Zelin, which he also placed on the Internet.

Recall that premium pay – aka Order No. 400 or 400-A – is the stopgap measure Serdyukov instituted early in his tenure to raise military pay [for the best performers] until a new, higher pay system could be introduced starting next year.  Premium pay’s allowed the officers to double, triple, or even quadruple their pay, but it’s also been plagued by problems and scandals from the very beginning.

According to Sulim, every month when officers receive their premium pay, they have to give their commander, Colonel Sidorenko, a specific sum.  In Sulim’s case, 13,600 rubles every month.

Life.ru printed excerpts from Sulim’s letter:

“In January of last year, Colonel Kovalskiy got unofficial information on the amounts servicemen needed to hand over after getting their premiums to each sub-unit commander.  Commanders couldn’t refuse this because all were threatened with dismissal during requalification [pereattestatsiya].”

Sulim says every month officers were picked to collect the money which went to Colonel Sidorenko.

“Every month from 140 to 185 thousand rubles were collected from sub-units.  I know that just from the four squadrons of unit 62632-A nearly 7 million rubles were collected in a year.”

“I tried to go to the Tambov Garrison Military Prosecutor.  But evidently Colonel Kovalskiy has good connections there because the commander [Sidorenko] became aware immediately about all those who want to get out from under the yoke of extortion.  And all our efforts led to the start of an investigation into the facts of slander against the unit commander.”

And Sulim’s command took him off flight status in retaliation.

Now a host of investigators — from the VVS, the SK, prosecutors — have flocked to check out Sulim and his allegations.

Where are we on this one?

It may take a while to play out.  If experience is a guide, young whistleblower Sulim may become target rather than hero of the story.  The Russian military [political, or bureaucratic] system doesn’t care much for those “sweep dirt out of the izba.”

Uncontained by the Defense Ministry, this latest scandal could undercut the much-heralded launch of the new pay system next year.  The draft law due for Duma consideration provides for continuing premium pay.

Extortion and theft damaged efforts to use combat pay as a motivator for service during the second Chechen war.  There have always been problems with commanders and finance officers handling pay in cash.

Commanders have used control of cash as a mechanism of control over their subordinates, as a zona-type obshchak for meeting unit needs or meting out a rough social justice, or, at worst, as a source of personal enrichment.  For some time, the military’s talked about electronic funds transfer to avoid pay-related criminal activity.

And Igor Igoryevich Sulim is apparently not just any young pilot.  His father is General-Major Igor Vadimovich Sulim, just relieved of duty in early March as Chief of the VVS’ Directorate of Frontal and Army Aviation.  It’s entirely possible that this personnel action has some connection to his son and his revelations, or vice versa.

Finally, the national angle to the Sulim story.  And what will it, like many other corruption stories, say about Russia’s national struggle against corruption (if there really is one)?

For additional info on Sulim, see Lipetsknews.ru or his complete letter here

There are many infamous cases of premium pay machinations . . . for summary articles see Svpressa.ru or Baranets in Komsomolskaya pravda.

Policy To-and-Fro on Military Police

State Secretary and Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov probably didn’t surprise a lot of people when he announced the latest Defense Ministry flip (or flop this time?) on the military police issue last week.

 Pankov announced that:

 “The Defense Ministry has found the establishment of military police inexpedient at this stage of Army and Navy reform.  Directive documents on the establishment of military police in the Russian Army have been suspended, and orders on the formation of these structures in the military districts and the fleets have lost force.”

 Later, the press quoted Pankov differently:

 “I wouldn’t say it so categorically – this work is suspended for now.”

But he didn’t elaborate on the Defense Ministry’s reasons for stopping or suspending the effort at this moment.

Military police units are, or were, supposed to stand up in 2010.  Their mission was to maintain order and discipline, and prevent hazing and other barracks violence and crime, primarily thefts of military property.  A military police department started working in the Defense Ministry’s Main Combat Training and Troop Service Directorate last December, drawing up plans and training programs for the new MP units.

In early February, a Defense Ministry representative denied press reports that Defense Minister Serdyukov had suspended work on the military police force.  But a source in the Defense Ministry’s press service told the media that “the documents establishing it have been sent to the appropriate legal directorates for reworking.”  He said that forming the military police would require amendments in federal legislation beyond the Defense Minister’s purview.

The back-and-forth, on-and-off nature of Russia’s yet-to-be created military police calls into question the Defense Ministry’s capacity to formulate and implement policies, or at least to do it so its doesn’t  look foolish.  Why would any military district commander or brigade chief of staff hurry to introduce any new policy or regulation that might just be overturned 6 months from now, or never implemented at all? 

As with the rumored halt in February, the latest stop may in fact be related to legal issues, but they usually only become an obstacle when they’re really protecting someone’s bureaucratic empire.  In this case, the military prosecutor and MVD are obviously very interested parties when it comes to devising a military police policy.  And they are pretty big hitters vis-à-vis the Defense Ministry.

The Defense Ministry already has plenty of people and organizations involved in military law enforcement, but they seem unable or unwilling to organize and cooperate to do the job.  Existing military law enforcement mechanisms could be made to work properly. 

Another sticking point may continue to be who will be in charge of a new military police force.  The prosecutor and MVD probably don’t want military police to answer to the Defense Ministry.  Military commanders could misuse or corrupt military police who would be enforcing laws on those commanders as well as ordinary servicemen.

Svpressa.ru talked to Anatoliy Tsyganok in this vein.  He said:

 “It once again attests to poorly thought-out reforms, zigzagging from side to side, senseless expenditure of resources needed for reequipping the army, and social programs.”

From the get-go, Tsyganok was against spending a ‘not small’ amount of money on a new structure seen as a panacea for all the army’s ills, at a time when the existing military command structure should be able to handle military police functions.

Tsyganok continues:

“. . . I came out not against military police per se, but against the dissipation of resources allocated for army reform:  the fact that they change conscripts for contractees, but then reverse this, the fact that they bring Yudashkin to design uniforms, but then chuck it, now here’s the confusion with military police.  It’d be better to use these resources on weapons for the army.  Russia’s military-industrial complex exports 90 percent of its production.  Aircraft to China and India, helicopters to Latin America and Middle Eastern countries.  Automatic weapons to Venezuela.  But the Russian Army scrapes by with old weapons.  At the same time money is invested in not well thought-out projects.”

“At present our servicemen who have violated order or broken the law are sent to do their time in basements, in special trenches, in storage areas.  Serdyukov doesn’t have financial resources even to build apartments for officers, there can’t even be talk about guardhouses.”

 “Now order among the troops is controlled by commandant (komendatura) forces, commandant patrols, commandant platoons and regiments, internal details; military traffic police structures are active.  This is a huge force.  For example, in Moscow there are 10 districts.  An integral commandant regiment patrols every district.  And is this little?  But military prosecutors, special departments [OO – FSB men—особисты or osobisty, embedded in large military groupings, units, and garrisons] also exist to maintain legal order in the army.  We need to force all this organizational and personnel mass to work effectively.  But for this the Defense Ministry itself needs to work effectively, and not spend money on schemes.”

 “The Defense Ministry leadership in answer to criticism about rampant crime in the army created nothing but the appearance of vigorous activity.  It’s hard to keep order, but forming something else at the expense of budget resources is easy.”

 “The failure of the project was sealed in its very organizational basis.  They proposed to subordinate the military police to the Defense Ministry in the person of the first deputy minister.  The fact is the very same operational structure of military control and repression would wind up in the hands of military leaders themselves.  This is a criminally corrupt thing.  Any Defense Minister, major troop commander, or independent unit commander could arrest on any pretext and end the contract of any inconvenient serviceman.”

Tsyganok kind of skirts around the issue without saying so, but it may be there’s not enough money to pay for building a military police force.

 Interfaks cited Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Mikhail Babich, who called on the Defense Ministry to be more cautious about making changes in the armed forces and to avoid revoking its own decisions, as may be happening in the case of military police.  Babich is a somewhat critical and independent-minded member of Putin’s United Russia party.  He also said armed forces reforms require serious budget expenditures, so every time this or that program is dropped, the reasons should be closely studied and analyzed.  He concludes:

“I think the Defense Minister should hold to account those who were responsible for drawing up and implementing programs deemed unsuccessful.  First of all, this means the federal targeted program for recruiting professional sergeants in 2009-2015, which has not really started and the allocated money was spent on different purposes.”

Babich goes on to note that it’s still unclear what’s happening with Russia’s 85 permanent readiness combined arms brigades that replaced divisions in the Ground Troops.

“The Defense Ministry is keeping silent about this but it’s already clear that plans to establish permanent readiness combined arms brigades have fallen through.  As a result, it’s been decided to divide them into three types:  heavy, medium, and light.  Yet again everything is being done by rule of thumb.”