Tag Archives: SibVO

Story of a Noncombat Loss

Albert Kiyamov (photo: Chita.ru)

A recent case illustrates why most Russians don’t want their sons – especially talented, well-educated ones – to serve in the army.  It’s a tale of senseless violence and abuse going beyond dedovshchina , bullying, or hazing.  And it highlights how contract service makes sadistic riff-raff into unprofessional NCOs, and tormentors of the conscripts they’re intended to lead.  

For their part, more VUZ graduates are ending up in the army given the military’s need for higher numbers of draftees and its tighter enforcement of conscription rules.  The army believes more educated conscripts will make service safer, but it may just make them the victims of violence in the ranks. 

The investigation into the May death of a conscript named Albert Kiyamov in Transbaykal Kray recently ended with the filing of criminal charges against company sergeant Sergey Lugovets. 

Kiyamov was a promising graduate with a degree in nuclear physics, who’d been picked for a job in the Scientific-Research Institute of Nuclear Reactors.  But he got called-up in April.  According to Newsru.com, his family thinks his poor vision should have made him unfit to serve. 

Lugovets enlisted in the army despite a suspended sentence for theft in Volgograd Oblast, and became a sergeant in the headquarters company of the 36th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade in Borzya (v/ch 06705).  According to Utro.ru, he quickly established ‘his order’ in the company.  And he picked Kiyamov to be his main victim. 

Kiyamov endured days of beatings and humiliation from Lugovets before jumping to his death from a fourth-story barracks window on May 14. 

According to Newsru.com, the command told Kiyamov’s family it was a simple suicide, but they refused to accept this, believing – based on the number of bruises and abrasions on his body – he’d been beaten, then thrown from the window.  The SibVO military prosecutor at first denied observing evidence of prior beatings on Kiyamov’s body.  But an investigation ensued. 

Sergeant Lugovets didn’t deny his guilt, but claimed he was trying to ‘teach’ Kiyamov how to conduct himself around his ‘seniors.’  He faces a possible 10-year sentence for “violating regulation rules of relations between servicemen, entailing serious consequences.” 

The unit’s officers were attending an exercise at the time of this incident, and military investigators gave them a warning to eliminate the kinds of violations that led to Lugovets’ abuse of Kiyamov.  

Vitaliy Cherkasov, Director of the Transbaykal Legal Defense Center, told Newsru.com about a similar incident in Borzya more recently, but, in this case, the soldier sustained serious injuries, and survived to be discharged from the army.  A legal defense group told Utro.ru the Kiyamov tragedy was possible because the Defense Ministry allows men with criminal records to sign up for contract service [of course, it drafts some with criminal records too]. 

Units in Borzya, and the Transbaykal generally, have a substantial history of problems with violence and abuse in the ranks.  On the positive side, investigators are getting to the truth in some cases, but too late for kids like Albert Kiyamov.

Commander for New Army in Chita

General-Major Romanchuk

By the Defense Minister’s order dated 12 August, General-Major Aleksandr Vladimirovich Romanchuk became acting commander of the new combined arms army being formed in Chita.  ITAR-TASS quoted a SibVO spokesman:

“The command and staff of the army, and also a number of army-subordinate formations and military units, will be formed under his leadership.  Formations and military units based in Transbaykal Kray will comprise the army.”

The Chita Combined Arms Army (CAA) will be the easternmost large formation in the new Central Military District (MD), or Combined Strategic Command (OSK) Center.  Who knows what number the new army will receive . . . maybe the former 29th CAA will be resurrected.

Romanchuk was born 15 April 1959 in Lugansk, Ukraine.  He grew up in a military family in Azerbaijan.  Commissioned out of the Baku Higher Combined Arms Command School in 1980, he served as a tank platoon and company commander, then chief of staff and deputy commander of a tank battalion in the Transcaucasus MD.  He graduated from the Military Academy of Armored Troops in 1989 and, for a very short period, commanded an independent tank battalion in the Central Group of Forces (Czechoslovakia). 

Returning home with the rest of Soviet forces, he became deputy commander and commander of a machine gun-artillery regiment in the Transbaykal MD during the 1990s.  He was a colonel in his late 30s by the end of this phase of his career.

When the Transbaykal MD folded into the Siberian MD, Romanchuk became chief of an armaments and equipment storage base, and chief of staff and deputy commander of a Siberian MD tank division.  He served a tour of duty in Chechnya during the late 1990s or early 2000s.

Between 2001 and 2003, he was deputy commander of the Guards Taman Motorized Rifle Division in the Moscow MD.  He became commander of the 4th Guards Kantemir Tank Division in Naro-Fominsk at the end of 2003.  He was promoted to general-major (one star) in mid-2005.

He likely attended the Military Academy of the General Staff between mid-2006 and mid-2008, and then became a deputy commander of the Novosibirsk-based 41st CAA.  In July 2009, he became chief of staff and first deputy commander of that army.

Romanchuk is married with two sons.

Two New Armies for the Central Military District

This week General-Lieutenant Vladimir Chirkin spoke to Krasnaya zvezda about several things.  Recall that Chirkin is acting commander of the troops of the ‘Combined Strategic Command of the Red Banner Central Military District.’  He has been commander of the SibVO until now of course.

His interview brought two things immediately into focus.  First, it appears that OSKs will actually be unified or combined strategic commands rather than ‘operational-strategic commands.’  Either way the acronym is OSK.  But combined strategic command connotes a couple significant things.  They may really unify all armed services and branches on their territory for warfighting.  Second, they are beyond the ‘operational-strategic’ level of warfare; they are intended to be strategic.

In this interview, Chirkin was asked and talked at length about the scale and scope of Vostok-2010 in Siberia, as well as the performance of his troops in the exercise.

Asked about the formation of the four new OSKs, Chirkin provided a short dissertation on why the Armed Forces command and control system is being overhauled:

“Recently the Russian Federation adopted a new National Security Strategy and Military Doctrine.  The Defense Ministry and General Staff put amendments in these documents.  Possible threats of wars and conflicts, basic forms and capabilities for fulfilling strategic missions were determined.  The National Security Concept of the Russian Federation proposes that the state could encounter real and potential threats.  I won’t reveal all the subtleties, but I will say one thing — the new system of command and control is being created accounting for the realities of the current time and changing international situation, so the state can independently confront possible threats to its security and the security of its allies, and achieve strategic goals.”

“Such a decision was predicated on the realities of our times and repeatedly  thought over by both the General Staff of the Armed Forces and the country’s leadership.  Reforming the system at all levels is the basis of military reform.  In a word, this decision strengthens the preceding results and gives the process a new turn.”

Chirkin says the formation of his new OSK is not interfering with planned combat training at the brigade level and below.

He says there shouldn’t be any concern about excess officers in his command:

“Officers who meet all requirements and wish to continue serving will be appointed to positions.  Firstly, the Combined Strategic Commands in Yekaterinburg and Khabarovsk [i.e. Eastern Military District] will require supplements of several hundred officers ready to serve in their directorates, departments, and services.  You understand the territories and quantity of troops are increasing.  And this means professional-administrators will be needed, and there are not just a few of these among SibVO officers.”

“Secondly, in Chita a combined arms army will be formed.  Officers and civilian personnel will also be required there.  Besides, in Transbaykal, several more formations and units will be formed, which must make up a large formation [i.e. объединение, an army].  And this, you understand, is hundreds more officer positions.  The main thing is an officer should be a qualified specialist, a master of his trade and have the desire to continue serving.”

Recall in early June, General Staff Chief Makarov told the Federation Council three new armies comprising six brigades would be formed, and so it looks like Makarov’s old home, the erstwhile SibVO, and its massive territory in its new Combined Strategic Command of the Central Military District incarnation, will receive two of the new armies.  Look for generals with a strong SibVO pedigree to command them.  No indication of where Makarov’s third new army will appear.  The Eastern Military District might be a good bet.

As a postscript, Chirkin noted that the SibVO has gotten 4,500 apartments to distribute to dismissed or retired officers.

Prosecutorial Prophylaxis

In this instance, the military legal system’s effort to prevent the scourge of dedovshchina, or hazing and other violence against servicemen . . . .

Today’s Krasnaya zvezda covered military prosecutors’ special campaign to warn servicemen against breaking the ‘regulation rules of relations’ between them this month.  The paper talked to the acting military prosecutor of the SibVO’s Yurga garrison to find out what measures he’s trying.

Recall our last mention of Yurga covered its role as test bed for Defense Minister Serdyukov’s attempt to ‘humanize’ military service, so this is obviously a good spot to work to uproot dedovshchina culture.

The Yurga prosecutor said he’s used anonymous questionaires to gather a ‘sufficiently complete picture of the existing situation.’  Taking this and information from sub-unit commanders, the prosecutor proceeds to ‘individual prophylactic conversations.’  He calls such ‘prosecutorial warnings’ a very effective instrument; 18-year-old soldiers have to sign a paper acknowledging they’ve been warned about possible criminal liability for violating regulations and this may have a psychological and deterrent effect on them.

The prosecutor also conducts round tables and extra dissemination of special SibVO ‘pamphlets’ in sub-units.  More on these later.  The pamphlets include a hotline number for reporting violations of law and order (presuming that conscripts have a phone, and aren’t afraid of who’s listening to their call).  He puts up displays informing soldiers of judicial punishments meted out for various violations.  All and all, the prosecutor expects more inquiries coming into his office this month as a result of the campaign.

Moskovskiy komsomolets has a number of these ‘pamphlets’ and concludes they’re generally given to conscripts all over Russia.  They urge the victims of barracks violence not to break the law themselves, show courage, and, if absolutely necessary, hide on the grounds of the unit rather than go AWOL.  But, the paper notes, the ‘pamphlets’ don’t say how long to hide out, or how to eat while hiding.

The ‘pamphlets’ urge conscripts to tell their tormentors that they intend to go to their commander, and to believe that the law is on their side.  It exhorts them not to even think about resorting to using a weapon or committing suicide.

Moskovskiy komsomolets concludes, for all their absurdity, the pamphlets show the fundamental plague of today’s army remains the legal illiteracy of conscripts, their inclination toward violence, and the inability of their officers to cope with them.

Vesti FM interviewed ‘Citizen and Army’ coordinator Sergey Krivenko about the pamphlets.  He said at least they show the Defense Ministry acknowledges dedovshchina is a problem, and it’s growing, not declining.  He believes the pamphlets’ appearance is an indication of hopelessness; military reform is not transforming conscript service or giving conscripts adequate legal protection.

Not Enough Officers in ‘New Type’ Brigades?

In today’s Vedomosti, Aleksey Nikolskiy writes that Vostok-2010 has revealed a problem with officer manning in Russia’s ‘new type’ brigades.

In the course of the exercise, practically all SibVO and DVO permanent readiness units have been ordered to training ranges to test out their new TO&E and train their higher-level command elements.

Nikolskiy says:

“In the words of an officer of one of the motorized rifle brigades participating in the exercise, the new structures sent to the troops at the end of 2008 after the beginning of Armed Forces reform showed that officer manning and supply services are extremely inadequate, for this reason part of the brigades’ forces — for example, air defense means — can’t physically reach the training range.  There were bigger problems also with material support of the troops.”

Vedomosti’s source also says the troops are expecting new brigade structures in August that, according to the rumor, will contain even fewer officers.  A brigade’s officers will reportedly be halved, from 200 to 100, and this will just make the situation worse.  However, an officer from the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus says the new structures are being prepared based on the shortcomings of the exercise, and, if it’s decided there aren’t enough officers, their number will increase.

Humanizing and Outsourcing the Army

Press outlets report that the Siberian MD’s Yurga-based 74th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade is the test bed for Defense Minister Serdyukov’s army ‘humanization’ initiative announced in late April.  And today Chief of Rear Services, Deputy Defense Minister General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov expounded upon the extent of, and near-term plans for, outsourcing of food services in the army. 

The 74th IMRB is trying out a 5-day work week and weekend passes for soldiers.  They are permitted to wear civilian clothes while off-base for the first time.  The brigade has also introduced an after-lunch rest hour into the daily regimen. 

ITAR-TASS quotes brigade commander Colonel Andrey Khoptyar: 

“The intensity of combat training in 2010 has risen significantly, the load on soldiers has increased, therefore extra rest time has been allocated.”

Khoptyar said his soldiers are also getting an additional 30 minutes of sleep at night.

The media describes the 74th IMRB as one of Russia’s best performing and best-outfitted formations.  Some of its soldiers live in ‘hotel-type’ accommodations with four-man rooms and their own bath and shower rooms.

Transferring nonmilitary functions and duties from soldiers and their units to contracted commercial firms was another facet of Serdyukov’s April announcement.  Since December, this brigade’s troops have been spared mess hall duty because a private firm ‘MedStroy’ has taken over responsibility for operating its cafeteria.

IA Regnum described this as a “practical trial of new measures in all-around systematic support of day-to-day troop life by outside civilian organizations on an outsourcing basis.”  As the SibVO spokesman says:

“The main idea of the innovations is to free servicemen, to the maximum extent, from performing noncore tasks, establishing conditions for full-fledged combat training of personnel.”

At present, outsourced food service has already been establishing in the SibVO’s Ulan-Ude, Aleysk, and Yurga brigades, and the district military hospital in Chita.  The process of changing to this system of service has already started in two more permanent readiness brigades, the district training center, rear services units of two SibVO armies, three military schools, and 12 military hospitals this year.

The SibVO spokesman says state contracts worth 1 billion rubles have been concluded which bring 1,000 civilian specialists to provide services to more than 20,000 of the district’s troops.  The contracts include food and laundry services, housing-communal services in military towns, recreation services, and other material-technical support, including POL provision to the tune of more than 71 million rubles.

Beyond experiments in the SibVO, today Armed Forces Rear Services Chief Bulgakov told the press 340,000 soldiers in all permanent readiness units, military-educational institutions, and cadet and Suvorov premilitary schools will be fed through outsourced contracts by this year’s end.  He indicated 180,000 soldiers will be fed in 200 units for an annual cost of 6.5 billion rubles by 1 September.   At present, the logistics head said civilian enterprises are feeding 141,000 soldiers in 99 units, except in inaccessible and distant areas.  According to Bulgakov, commercial firms not only provide quality service, but are more economical than having soldiers perform this work.  Bulgakov added that outsourced food service has:

“. . . eliminated the diversion of personnel from combat training activities, food quality has improved, the variety of food prepared has broadened, culinary culture has been raised; the energy value, chemical composition and full achievement of the norms of food rations are reliably meeting normative requirements.”

Bulgakov spoke to reporters during a special rear services exercise supporting an ‘inter-service force grouping’ in the SibVO.  He pointed out how studying U.S. and NATO experiences influenced the Russian Army’s decision to outsource support functions.  According to ITAR-TASS, he said:

“As a result it was evident that the entire U.S. and NATO contingent in Afghanistan and Iraq at present is outsourcing all material-technical support.”

He added that “civilian specialists from commercial structures in these countries are working both in military units in their places of permanent deployment as well as in ‘hot spots.’”

More on the Military Manpower Dilemma

Social Portrait of SibVO Conscripts (Photo: Trud)

Mikhail Lukanin wrote in Trud this week about the Defense Ministry’s unending manpower woes. 

He concluded that the first two months of this spring’s draft campaign showed there’ll be almost no way to avoid conscription.  Experts he talked to believe the Defense Ministry’s conscription plan is unrealistically high, and the armed forces will turn to inducting every student. 

The callup is supposed to run 1 April to 15 July, and take in 270,000 new soldiers.  Voyenkomaty have already sent 100,000 men—mostly from the Volga-Ural region and Siberia—to their units.  One-third of callup-aged men were screened out due to health problems, most of which were diagnosed initially when the men appeared before the military-medical commission. 

Experts consider the early part of the draft campaign the easy part.  Voyenkomaty have been dealing with young men not in school who go pretty willingly to the army, according to human rights advocate Sergey Krivenko.  

But he says in the last weeks of the draft the voyenkomaty have to meet their quotas mainly with VUZ graduates who don’t have any desire to serve.  Valentina Melnikova of the Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee says: 

“Mass roundups in student dormitories have already begun.  They traditionally conduct them mostly in Moscow and St. Petersburg.” 

In the fall, 43,000 university and institute graduates found themselves in the army—that’s 15 percent of all conscripts. 

Demographers indicate that the number of 18-year-old men will fall, and not exceed 600,000 for the next two years.  That number equals the number of places available in higher education institutions.  Independent military-economic analyst Vitaliy Tsymbal concludes: 

“The Defense Ministry can fully meet its draft plan only by means of total conscription of students.” 

And it has done little to hide its appetite for students, according to Lukanin. 

GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov already talked to the Federation Council about drafting students after one or two years in a VUZ, and the Education Ministry reportedly didn’t object.  The extension of the current draft until 31 August means that those finishing school at 18 can now fall directly into the army, rather than taking their VUZ entrance exams.  Similarly, the ‘nonstop draft’ means VUZ graduates hoping to start their graduate studies will now fall subject to the draft. 

Of course, Smirnov has also raised cutting sharply the number of VUZy that can provide students a draft deferment.  He talks about a 50 percent cut, expanded later to a 70 percent cut in qualified VUZy.  Trud has been told all nongovernmental institutions will lose the right to provide deferments. 

Sergey Krivenko believes in every draft about 130,000-150,000 conscripts are ready to serve [his number may be high since it wasn’t so long ago that 133,000 were drafted every six months, and surely not every one of them was happy to go].  If, according to Krivenko, the Defense Ministry stuck with this number, it wouldn’t have any problem with conscription [it would certainly have fewer problems].  He continues: 

“However, the whole point is that beginning with spring 2009 the plan jumped to almost 300,000 in one callup.  Troop commanders themselves say that half of this number is simply ballast for the army.  Mainly these are guys in poor health, with a low level of education, and also inveterate hooligans.” 

Lukanin had a second article reviewing data from a survey of 7,800 conscripts in the SibVO.  Every third conscript considers serving a burden.  Only 40 percent had a secondary school (high school) or initial professional (post-secondary technical training) education; 4.5 percent had a complete higher education.  A third of the men grew up without fathers.  One in ten admitted either misusing alcohol, trying narcotics, or having a run-in with the police before coming to the army. 

More than 30 percent said they came to the army just to avoid trouble with the authorities.  Two percent said they have a negative attitude toward the army [this represents the small number of young men willing to tell the army’s pollsters what they really think to their faces]. 

Experts tell Lukanin the poll results will change as conscripts from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other large cities begin to arrive.  A figure of 15 percent with negative attitudes toward the army is about the norm. 

Ten percent of the conscripts have health problems.  Three percent are underweight. 

The medical condition of conscripts may be worsening.  Official data say half of conscripts have health-related restrictions on their service.  And army commanders confirm that it’s hard to find draftees without some kind of defect.  ‘Ideal’ soldiers (from a physical and social standpoint) are found only in honor guards.  The deputy commander of the Moscow honor guard battalion said last fall he traveled all over Kostroma Oblast and, of 1,000 candidates presented by local voyenkomaty, he accepted only 30. 

Finally, one last story of draft-related problems . . . Nezavisimaya gazeta ran an editorial this week describing how some conscripts finishing their year of service in the DVO, Pacific Fleet, and SibVO are not being demobbed on time.  According to this report, they are being held because the DVO doesn’t have trained soldiers to take their places and participate in the operational-strategic Vostok-2010 exercise starting at the end of June.  The editorial concludes that the spring conscripts don’t even know how to handle their weapons yet, much less find a target on radar.  NG calls it a symptom of the fact that the Russian Army never has, and never has had, enough specialists.  The editors could hark back to the need for a professional army, but instead they recommend a better system of reserve mobilization.