An embarrassing melee for the Russian military . . . Viktor Baranets from Komsomolskaya pravda has received confirmation – including video posted on his paper’s website — of a major brawl in the Naro-Fominsk-based 4th Independent Tank Brigade (once part of the elite Kantemir Tank Division). The video from 4 or 5 July shows a large hand-to-hand battle on the parade ground. It wasn’t posted until 10 August. The entire incident was apparently a flare-up from an earlier confrontation between Russian soldiers and, yes once again, conscripts from Dagestan.
An ‘unofficial’ version Baranets got from a Defense Ministry spokesman indicates that, the day before the big fight, some Russian recon unit conscripts got in a scrape with Dagestanis in a local club (conscripts able to leave the garrison – part of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s effort to ‘humanize’ military service).
Newsru.com also has the video. It got a Moscow Military District spokesman to confirm that the mass fight grew out of a smaller conflict between soldiers from an air defense battalion and from a reconnaissance company.
According to Baranets’ version, the next day a large group of soldiers from Dagestan attacked six Russian troops. One of the latter managed to get help. The brigade commander ran out and emptied his Kalashnikov over his troops’ heads.
Ten soldiers went to the hospital, several Dagestanis went to the guardhouse. And, according to Baranets, they are organizing a separate company for these ‘hot-tempered southerners.’ He says these things are common where there are high concentrations of soldiers from Dagestan. He concludes they happen because Dagestanis refuse to subordinate themselves to anyone but their compatriots.
The entire incident was kept quiet because officers were threatened with the loss of their monthly and yearly premium pay if they talked about it.
RIA Novosti reported some extra official information from the military prosecutor. The brigade’s chief of staff, deputy commander for socialization work, and six other officers received disciplinary reprimands, and two others [sub-unit commanders] were dismissed. Three conscripts face criminal charges from the fight involving 20 men. But as Newsru.com points out, the video looks like more than 20 men were fighting.
Most of the press coverage also noted the recent Baltic Fleet case in which Dagestanis forced other conscripts to spell out the word KAVKAZ with their bodies. Forum.msk wrote that most of the seven Dagestanis implicated in this incident received sentences over one year in prison.
There are, of course, lots of other incidents of this nature worthy of attention. People have forgotten April’s confrontation in Kamenka, or last November’s incident at the Shilovskiy range below Novosibirsk. There was also the alleged beating of 44 Dagestani soldiers in Aleysk in mid-2009. On 20 and 21 February 2007, Viktor Baranets wrote about 140 Dagestanis who took over their regiment on Kunashir in the southern Kurils in late 2006.
It’s always hard (maybe impossible) to say whether it’s the Dagestanis or the Russians (the Slavs, etc.) who are to blame in these instances. But it’s certain this is a complicated relationship that’s making life difficult in the army. And the problem is getting worse.
Vladimir Yermolin’s Grani.ru blog contained some good thoughts on it. He says the Russian Army has long since become a battlefield without rules. Not only was the 4th Tank Brigade incident open clan warfare, but it took place in broad daylight, apparently without officers present. Yermolin believes inter-ethnic skirmishes are growing in force, scale, and bloodiness. No one in the army knows how to deal with this clan problem, so why not legalize it and give it an organizational form that might control it [one supposes he means it’s time not only to end extraterritoriality in manning, but actually create national units]. Next time the commander might not be able to handle the situation like he did this time.
Finally, Yermolin concludes:
“In a country which has already been in a condition of permanent Caucasian war for almost two decades, you could say extremely harsh feelings of people locked in the barracks is a natural development.”