Tag Archives: Nonregulation Relations

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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New Poll on Conscription

FOM's Poll on Conscription

The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) just published a major poll looking at Russian attitudes toward the callup and obligatory military service.  It’s 48 pages, but here are some highlights.

The poll was conducted in July, with 3,000 respondents in 204 populated places in 64 of Russia’s regions.

Fifty-two percent of respondents favor a mixed manning system combining conscription with contract service, and 23 percent favor the callup only.

Sixty-four percent support the announced plan to cut conscripts and increase contract soldiers, although only 22 percent would support taking money from education and health care to pay for them.  Survey participants on average thought 34,500 rubles was worthy pay for contractees.

Fifty-five percent liked reducing conscript service from two years to one while 37 percent did not.  In the 18-30 age group, 65% supported the shorter service term.

In the population as a whole, 29% believe one-year service has reduced dedovshchina and “nonregulation relations” against 46 percent who feel nothing’s changed by it.  There were fewer of the former and more of the latter among respondents claiming intimate knowledge of army life.

The FOM poll showed strong support for a number of Defense Ministry initiatives to “humanize” conscript service.

Fifty-four percent were critical of draft evaders, but 34% were sympathetic toward them.

Finally, buried deep in the results, participants were asked for their views on the state of affairs in the Russian Army in coming years:

  • 19% said it will improve.
  • 19% said it will worsen.
  • 35% said it will stay the same.
  • 26% said hard to answer.

However, when asked to compare military service conditions today against those 10-15 years ago, more respondents said they are easier (39%), and many fewer said they are harder (14%), by comparison with Russians asked the same question in 2002 (just 6% and a whopping 64% respectively).

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.

Life in the Disbat

Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Sokirko had an interesting article today about life in a disbat — a disciplinary battalion.  It features a rather idyllic video showing some of the inmate-soldiers’ daily activities.

Sokirko says only two disbats remain, and he was invited inside one to see a “prison in shoulderboards.”  The 28th Independent Disciplinary Battalion looks like other units with barracks, parade grounds, etc.  But it also has barbed wire, guard dogs, and a security company.

The acting commander says he has 162 men under guard, although he could accommodate 800.

Most are inside for “nonregulation relations” or dedovshchina.  There’s also theft, extortion, AWOL, and less often, desertion.

One Russian conscript from Abkhazia is serving 6 months for refusing to scrub the barrack floor.  He adopted the “law of the mountains,” and refused to do “women’s work.”  Another, a sergeant, got two years for rupturing the spleen of a soldier who cursed him for sending him to clean the latrine.

The acting commander says his charges aren’t beaten or thrown into pits, but simply forced to march in formation and live strictly according to regulations (including learning every line).  And there’s cleaning the barracks.

If they don’t toe the line, there’s the guardhouse, and no one wants to go there, so even the proud and independent Caucasians follow orders.  More than half the inmates — 96 — are North Caucasians.  The article claims only 2 percent of the Russian Army is drafted there, but half the men in the disbat are Caucasians.

The commander says there’s no special treatment in the disbat:

“Here everyone scrubs the toilets, and eats lard.  The friendship of peoples in miniature.”

Inmates don’t get a permanent record from time in the disbat, and the command claims only 5 percent of its former inmates become criminals subsequently.

Interestingly, Rossiyskaya gazeta wrote about the disbat in 2009.  It said there were still 5 disbats with about 1,200 inmates in all.  It noted, while they don’t get a record, their disbat time doesn’t count, and they still have to complete their conscription term.  RG said 40 percent were serving time for AWOL, about the same for dedovshchina, and the rest for other crimes.

Sergey Ivanov had proposed the guardhouse as a replacement for the disbat.  Disciplinary cases would go to the guardhouse, and any soldier committing a crime not covered in the regs would be handled in civil court and prisons.  But Anatoliy Serdyukov didn’t support the plan to build and rebuild guardhouses.  Of course, he also claimed the disbat provided a better chance to get a guy back on track.

What Kind of Army?

Not again . . . but yes, Wednesday Trud asked what kind of army does Russia need in the future? 

It’s almost 20 years since the army ceased to be Soviet, and the paper asked five relatively independent experts the same question that’s been asked since 1991 –what is to be done about Russia’s Armed Forces?

Yes, it’s repetitive . . . it’s rare we hear something new, the problem is not ideas and initiatives, it’s implementing them.

At the same time, these commentaries are short and pithy.  They cover a lot of ground, and might be handy.

Korotchenko supports the Defense Ministry’s swerve back toward contractees, since there aren’t enough conscripts.  And he doubts conscripts are up to the task of handling modern weapons.  But he points to the need to end dedovshchina and other barracks violence to attract professional enlisted. 

Sharavin believes the big mobilization army is still needed, and conscription will continue alongside contract service for some time.  He wants more benefits for conscripts who’ve served, and he wants the sons of the bureaucratic elite to serve. 

Belozerov agrees recruiting 425,000 professional soldiers won’t be easy or fast.

Litovkin is harsher; he says there’s no reform, just back and forth on contract service.  He lampoons the current small-scale effort to train professional NCOs.  He ridicules thoughts of a serious mobilization reserve because of the lack of reserve training.

Makiyenko thinks a contract army is cost prohibitive, and the army numbers only about 800,000.  He likes the fighting spirit of soldiers from the Caucasus, opposes segregating them, but hopes Muslim clergymen in the ranks can restrain them. 

Igor Korotchenko:

“Of the million servicemen, ideally we should have 220 thousand officers, 425 thousand contractees and 355 thousand conscripts.   It’s true, not now, but in 10 years.  On the one hand, this is due to the physical impossibility of calling up more — there is simply no one to put under arms according to demographic indicators.  In the last call-up, the army took in 70 thousand fewer conscripts than in the preceding campaigns.  On the other hand, it’s simply scary to entrust those weapons systems, which should be purchased in the coming decade according to the state armaments program (and this is 20 trillion rubles by 2020), to people who were just driven out of the  sticks and into the army for a year.  Whether the Armed Forces want it or not, they are doomed to a certain intellectualization.  However, this is impossible if existing nonregulation relations between servicemen are preserved.  It seems that the Armed Forces leadership has started to understand this.  A program for the humanization of  service which also aims to remove the problem of dodging service (about 200 thousand men) has appeared.  Now in the Ryazan VDV School the first graduating class of professional sergeants is finishing the three-year course of study.  The eradication of nonregulation relations is connected directly with them.”

Aleksandr Sharavin:

“What kind of army to have is determined primarily by the country’s geographic situation.  If there is a potential threat to its territory from neighboring countries, we need a conscript army, through which a large mass of young men pass and allows for having a great mobilization reserve as a result.  If there is no threat, we can limit ourselves to professionals.  Russia has such threats — look closely at the map!”

“Is the transition to a professional army possible in Russia?  I suggest it’s possible, but not necessary. According to the Supreme CINC, we will transition to a new profile of the Armed Forces in 10-15 years.  For this or an even more extended period, conscription will remain.  Possibly in a much easier form — they will serve, not a year, or will call-up not 200 and some thousand, as now, but only 170 thousand men.  In the future, it would do to reduce even this number.  Moreover, reducing it will allow a certain selection and thereby improve the quality of the young men conscripted into the army.”

“In my view, a serving citizen [conscript] can’t receive the current 500 rubles [per month].  Hard military work should be well-paid, otherwise it is objectively devalued.  The rate — not lower than the country’s minimum wage!  We also need to think about other stimuli:  free higher education for those who’ve served, some kind of favorable mortgage credit, and, most importantly, we should only accept those young men who’ve fulfilled their duty to the Homeland into state service.  No references to health conditions can be taken into account.  If there’s strength to be a bureaucrat — get well and find the strength to serve in yourself!  If we need to amend the Constitution for this, we’ll amend it.  Our neighbors in Kazakhstan went this way and got a double benefit:  improved quality of the army contingent and bureaucrats who are not so divorced from the people, as in Russia.”

Vasiliy Belozerov:

“If the political decision is made, it’s possible even now, undoubtedly, to establish a fully volunteer army in Russia.  But do we need this?  I suggest it will be correct and justified if the share of professional sergeants and contractees in the army will be raised gradually.  Since it’s unclear from where a quantity of 425 thousand professionals can be gotten all at once.  They won’t fall from the sky.  We have to remind ourselves that the contingent of both current conscripts and potential professionals is one and the same:  young men 18-28.  This means we have to  create such conditions that it’s not the lumpen who go into the army, but normal men.  And worthy people need worthy conditions.  And there’s one more figure:  based on world experience it’s possible to say that in a professional army in the year for various reasons (health, age, contract termination, etc.) 5 percent of personnel are dismissed.  This means that in a 425,000-man professional corps in a year we have to recruit an additional 20 thousand men.  They also need to be gotten from somewhere.”

Viktor Litovkin:

“As is well-known, the army should know only two states:  either fighting, or preparing for war.  For us, it is either reforming or preparing to reform.  Meanwhile, there’s still no clear presentation of ​​what kind of army we want and what government resources we are prepared to give for this army.”

“In Russia, there is no coherent policy on establishing new Armed Forces.  The fact is the Chief of the Genshtab says we made a monstrous mistake and the Federal Targeted Program for Forming Professional Units failed, therefore we’ll get rid of contractees.  A half year goes by, the very same Genshtab Chief comes to the podium with the words that the country, it turns out, again needs 425 thousand professionals.  Make the basic calculations:  for this number of soldiers we need to have 65 thousand professional junior commanders [NCOs].  And now in Ryazan we have 250 men studying to be sergeants, they’ll graduate next year.  Meanwhile, there’s no data that they’ve selected the next course.  Has anyone thought about this?  And one more thing.  When we say that we need the call-up to create a trained reserve, this is self-deception.  The reserves are so unprepared!  Suppose we trained a soldiers for a year to drive a tank.  What next?  Once or twice a week after work this mechanic-driver has to work on the trainer at the voyenkomat, and every six months — drive a real tank on the range.  Otherwise, in case of war, we get not a trained reserve, but several million 40-year-old guys with beer guts who’ve forgotten which end the machine gun fires from.”

Konstantin Makiyenko:

“In my opinion, the transition to a professional army in Russia is desirable, but absolutely impossible.  A contract army is actually substantially more expensive than a conscript one.  Another thing, our announced one-million-man [army], in my view, likely doesn’t number 800 thousand men.  We have to talk about yet another problem — the coexistence of conscripts from the Caucasus and other regions in the army. Everyone remembers the wild incident, when these guys laid out the word ‘Kavkaz’ using conscripts of other nationalities.  But, on the other hand, conscripts from Dagestan, Chechnya or Kabardino-Balkaria, as a rule, stand-out for the best physical preparation and desire to learn about weapons.  Once the idea was floated to have Caucasians serve in some units, and Russians in others.  At the last session of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council, it was announced that this won’t be.  It was decided to refrain from creating monoethnic military formations of the ‘wild division’ type from the Tsarist Army.  Contradictions between conscripts called up from the Caucasus and other regions of the country will be removed by introducing the institution of military clergy of the Islamic persuasion.”

Levada Defenders’ Day Poll

The widely-respected Levada-Tsentr asked 1,600 Russians in 130 inhabited points in 45 regions its usual slate of Defenders’ Day questions reflecting attitudes toward the military and military service.  Its margin of error is 3.4 percent.

Are there military threats to Russia from other countries?

This one ticked up a bit this year.  “Definitely yes, most likely yes” rose from 47 percent last year to 53 percent this year.  It’s a little higher, but not way off the norm since 2000.

Is the Russian Army capable of defending the country from a real military threat from other countries?

“Definitely yes, most likely yes” ticked down a little from 63 to 59 percent, and “most likely no, definitely no” rose from 22 to 28 percent this year.

To serve or not to serve . . . would you want your son, brother, husband, or other close relative to serve in the army?

Respondents answered 36 percent yes to service, and 54 percent no to service. This was only a slight change from last year’s 34 and 57 percent – within the error margin.

If no, why not?

Interestingly, “dedovshchina, nonregulation relations, and violence in the army” declined from 37 to 29 percent in a year when, by every official account, reported cases of barracks violence increased significantly.

Should a family member serve if called up or look for a way to evade service?

Basically unchanged from last year, 46 percent say serve, and 41 percent say look for a way to avoid it.

Lastly, a question not asked every year . . . .

How widespread is dedovshchina and abuse of young soldiers by officers and older servicemen?

“In the majority of military units” has fallen over time to 39 percent, “everywhere” has declined to 13 percent.  These two answers together in 2006 were 82 percent.  “In a small number of military units” and “isolated instances” have both increased over time and represent 27 and 11 percent respectively this year.

Suicidal Lieutenants

President Toasts the Kuropatkins (photo: Aleksandr Astafyev)

The Pacific Fleet command and investigators say the shooting of a 22-year-old lieutenant assigned to a 35-year-old LST in Fokino was a suicide attempt, and not the result of ‘nonregulation relations’ or dedovshchina.  The incident occurred 1 December.  Lieutenant Maksim Kuropatkin was found with a gunshot wound to the head, and he remains in a coma.  Investigators say he shot himself with his service sidearm in the presence of two witnesses.  No criminal case has been initiated.  Their preliminary conclusion is that Kuropatkin suffered a nervous breakdown caused by difficulty adapting to life in the service.

Moskovskiy komsomolets point out the Kuropatkin case is a little special because President Dmitriy Medvedev was the surprise guest of honor at the lieutenant’s wedding in early July.  Medvedev was touring the Far East, and arrived at Birobidzhan’s wedding palace in time to witness three marriages including Kuropatkin’s.  Medvedev wished the lieutenant and his bride a “long happy family life.”  He ordered the governor of the Jewish AO to find apartments for all three couples.  About a month ago, the Kuropatkins got their apartment.

Kuropatkin’s family doesn’t believe his shooting was a suicide attempt.  They say he was always goal-oriented, and aimed for a military career from age 14 (presumably he attended a Nakhimov Naval School).  He graduated from the Pacific Naval Institute late this spring, married, and had been in his first assignment only a couple months.

They also say Kuropatkin recently mentioned the name of a senior officer who often picked on him, and was constantly nagging him to draw up some kind of documents, and when Kuropatkin refused, he said, “Well, that’s it, it’s the end for you.” 

A 24-year-old lieutenant named Ivan Yegorov died in what was also called a suicide aboard Slava-class CG Varyag in mid-November.  MK sums up saying:

“According to the opinion of knowledgeable people, dedovshchina in the officer environment ranges up to physical violence and shootings.”

RIA Novosti also reported a Baltic Fleet suicide this week.  A 23-year-old lieutenant from the Pionerskiy garrison reportedly shot himself in the chest with a Makarov pistol.  He apparently left a note.  The chair of the Kaliningrad Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers said she was completely surprised by this incident, adding that there have never been “any signals” of problems from the unit where this lieutenant served.