Monthly Archives: April 2010

Incredible Disappearing Fleet

Kara-class CG Kerch (713)

The Black Sea Fleet’s predicament is hardly a news story.  The press in recent months has featured stories claiming that the BSF will receive new ships to replace its aging order-of-battle.

But maintains the BSF is just about rusted through, and its ships will be unable to go to sea by 2015.  A Navy Main Staff source says the average age of BSF ships exceeds 30 years—the practical limit for naval vessels.  He claims the fleet’s sailors keep their ships in good condition, but, since metal has its limits, their hulls are reaching a point where “no one will risk going to sea in such ships.”

The source says the oldest BSF ships—whose service lives have expired and don’t warrant further investment—will be written off.  They include the Kara-class CG Ochakov (707), Tango-class SS Saint Prince Georgiy (B-380), probably Kara-class CG Kerch (713), and various transport and auxiliary ships.  Ochakov is 37 years old, and spent the past 18 years in the repair yard.  The disappearance of the Ochakov and Kerch will leave the BSF with only two major surface combatants—Slava-class CG Moskva (121) and Kashin-class DDG Smetlivyy (810).  And there is apparently a rumor that the Moskva will remain in the Pacific after participating in Vostok-2010 this summer.  The BSF will also be down to a lone submarine, Kilo-class Alrosa (B-871), which reportedly awaits repair after an engineering casualty during a recent training cruise. 

The final decision to write off some ships is driven by a 30 percent cut in the fleet’s maintenance budget [recall Defense Minister Serdyukov saying the repair budget has been cut by 28-30 percent, supposedly in favor of new procurement].  Since February, personnel at the 13th and 91st ship repair plants have been reduced by 2 times, according to  And the repair plants have practically no work this year.

So they’re not fixing old ships, but neither are new ones in sight . . . the press noted that the BSF didn’t get new units in the 2000s, will get no new ships this year, and the introduction of new ones isn’t planned.

A BSF staff representative told that several new corvettes of the Steregushchiy type (proyekt 20380) would restore the BSF’s combat potential. The Steregushchiy is in the Baltic Fleet, and a second unit of the class was just launched on 31 March.  This seems too slow to help the BSF, even if any of these ships were destined for Sevastopol.

 A source tells the basic problem is the lack of production capacity:

“All shipbuilding plants are overflowing with foreign orders for several years ahead, and even if there is money it’s very complicated to arrange additional production for the Russian Navy’s needs since there isn’t the right quantity of milling machinists, lathe operators, and welders.  There’s great productive potential in Ukraine, and we consider that the warming in Russian-Ukrainian relations could lead to realizing a number of projects on Ukrainian building ways, which never worked for the USSR’s Black Sea Fleet.” provided the opinion of Vladimir Yevseyev, who believes, until the BSF gets a new main base, it won’t get any new ships.  He says all the fleet’s problems are connected with its basing.  Most Ukrainian politicians oppose extending Russia’s presence in Sevastopol beyond 2017.  And Moscow has allocated a billion rubles to build a new base at Novorossiysk, but billions of dollars are required to create modern infrastructure there.  Yevseyev doesn’t like Novorossiysk, or Ochamchira:

“But we need to choose, otherwise the fleet could simply be liquidated.  Russia is just simply marking time.” seconds this line of thought, concluding that malicious people say the fleet’s fate has been decided, and Russia’s Crimean base is folding up, and, in order to avoid a furor, its order-of-battle will be liquidated by taking units out of service.

Major Beating at Shilovskiy

According to Kommersant, prosecutors have charged an artillery battalion commander from a motorized rifle brigade based below Novosibirsk with exceeding his authority by beating four conscripts from Dagestan.  A senior investigator from the Military-Investigative Department of the Prosecutor’s Investigative Committee for the Novosibirsk Garrison reports that the incident occurred last November at the Shilovskiy range when Major Nikolay Levyy beat two draftees from Dagestan in his office, then smashed their cell phones.  Levyy had been critical of the pair on more than one occasion. 

Two more natives of Dagestan got it from the major in front of the formation.  The investigator determined that Renat Magomedov got the worst of it when the major asked whether Magomedov would fight for the battalion or his own people if he had to choose, and Magomedov responded for his compatriots.

After this, the investigator reported, Slavic servicemen proceeded to beat all four soldiers from Dagestan.  Major Levyy looked on without intervening.  That evening, the events spiraled into a larger fight.  Russian servicemen herded dozens of Caucasian servicemen into one barracks and locked them  down.  Overnight, the unit’s officers managed to quiet the disturbance, and all soldiers from Dagestan were later sent to other units.

Major Levyy was relieved of duty pending the outcome of his case.  He did not admit his guilt, but also refused to incriminate himself by giving evidence.  The events involving the other fighting are still under investigation.

The media accounts note that this is not the first mass fight between Caucasians and Slavs at Shilovskiy.  The last one occurred on 8 January 2007 when officers had to fire warning shots to break it up, according to Kommersant.  Law enforcement only found out when one soldier turned up in the hospital with a ruptured spleen several days later.

Some press reminded readers of the early July 2009 incident in which 200 Russian and other soldiers reportedly fought with 44 conscripts from Dagestan at Aleysk, also in the SibVO.

Some thoughts on this news item . . .

The major smashing the soldiers’ cell phones is interesting.  Commanders say they don’t like soldiers having them because new conscripts have them taken away by older soldiers, contractees, and officers.  Commanders say cell phones jeopardize their units’ secrecy and security.  But they probably don’t like them because cell phones are a lifeline to call for help in cases where conscripts are being abused or mistreated.  This tends to get the commander in trouble, one way or the other.

Would the major ask a soldier from Dagestan if he would fight for his battalion or for his compatriots if there weren’t already some pretty serious interethnic violence, conflicts, and tensions in his unit?

Shilovskiy is basically a SibVO arms and equipment storage base left  unchanged despite the army’s ‘new profile.’  Levyy, like other Russian officers, probably faced the reality that there are now fewer officers, warrants, and contract sergeants to supervise increased numbers of conscripts.  The commander also faces more demands from his superiors, the SibVO, Genshtab, and Defense Ministry today with the push for the ‘new profile.’  It likely breeds frustration that drives higher levels of officer crime from year to year.  It’s interesting that it’s the battalion commander himself using his fists against soldiers, and not their own battery commanders, captains, or lieutenants.

A major in Levyy’s position is damned if he doesn’t and damned if he doesn’t.  If he acts, he has few levers at his disposal—where are the new military police, the guardhouses, the old military commandant?  So he resorts to his fists and something akin to prison camp order.  And if he doesn’t act, he can’t keep order at all and the situation just gets worse.

There are lots of other incidents involving conscripts from Dagestan either giving, or taking, beatings in the armed forces.  And we’ll look at some in days to come.  But interethnic tensions in the Russian Army don’t always involve just soldiers from Dagestan.