Monthly Archives: May 2011

Shamanov on the VDV’s GOZ

General-Lieutenant Shamanov (photo: RIA Novosti / Petr Chernov)

Last Thursday VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov returned to a bit of media spotlight for the first time since returning to duty following serious injuries in a collision with a truck last fall.

Shamanov said the VDV’s part of the state defense order (GOZ) isn’t necessarily proceeding well.  But he claims the BMD-4M was ordered.  He lobbied for a piece of the Arctic defense mission.  And he repeated past calls for his own helicopters.

RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported Shamanov saying he’s satisfied “on the whole” that the rearmament of the VDV:

“. . . is going according to the strict parameters which were established.  First of all, this concerns the modernization of BMD-1 and BMD-2 and ‘Nona’ self-propelled artillery with automation means.”

But he added:

“The issue of fulfilling the 2011 state defense order for 10 BMD-4M and for 10 standardized ‘Rakushka’ armored personnel carriers, built on a BMD-4M base, is not completely resolved.  The thing is Kurganmashzavod didn’t give a guarantee it would produce them.  Presently, Kurganmashzavod’s financial situation is causing concern.  There are no guarantees that, if all the money comes, the order will be met.” 

Last year Shamanov said the firm was developing and producing the first BMD-4M models on its own to the tune of 200 million rubles.

Still he hopes the problem with fulfilling the 2011 GOZ for the VDV will be resolved soon.  He said there are negotiations, and the problem should be resolved in week or two.

The VDV Commander indicated he’s sending the Genshtab a proposal under which his branch would participate in defending Russia’s Arctic shelf jointly with the Ground Troops.

He told journalists he gave his deputy, General-Major Aleksandr Lentsov,  the task of developing options for VDV units to work with the Ground Troops and Navy in the Arctic.  Shamanov invited the commanders of Naval Infantry brigades and Ground Troops’ air-assault brigades to the VDV’s operational conference in Ryazan the week before last.

Shamanov opined that establishment of an inter-service grouping for the Arctic is “fully possible” but how it might happen remains a topic of discussion.

The press services said Shamanov resurfaced his previous calls for a helicopter regiment co-located with the VDV brigade in Ulyanovsk or division in Pskov.  He said he plans to submit two variants of such a proposal to the Genshtab when it is finished.  

Press sources said he requested the same thing at this time last year.  The Ground Troops-dominated Genshtab apparently frowns on an idea that would eat resources and possibly duplicate the capabilities of the army’s own air-assault brigades.  For his part, maybe Shamanov benefits by repeatedly laying down a marker indicating that the VDV lacks something he considers essential.

Still More Appointments, Dismissals

More backlog . . . this is President Medvedev’s decree from 14 February.

Appoint:

  • General-Lieutenant Sergey Aleksandrovich Lobov, Deputy Commander, Space Troops, relieved of duty as Chief, 820th Main Missile Attack Warning Center.
  • General-Major Igor Ivanovich Protopopov, Chief, 820th Main Missile Attack Warning Center.
  • Colonel Aleksey Mikhaylovich Tsygankov, Chief, Morale-Psychological Support and Military Discipline Directorate, Deputy Chief, Main Directorate for Personnel Work, RF Armed Forces, relieved of duty as Chief, Socialization Work and Morale-Psychological Support Directorate, Deputy Chief, Main Directorate of Socialization Work, RF Armed Forces.
  • Captain First Rank Andrey Nikolayevich Shishkin, Deputy Commander of the Black Sea Fleet for Material-Technical Support, relieved of duty as Chief of Rear Services, Deputy Commander of the Black Sea Fleet for Rear Services.
  • General-Major Andrey Vyacheslavovich Yudin, Deputy Commander, 3rd Air Forces and Air Defense Command, relieved of duty as Chief, Combat Training Directorate, Air Forces.

Relieve from duty:

  • General-Major Anatoliy Ivanovich Varakuta, Chief, Automotive Service, Siberian MD.
  • General-Major Nikolay Mikhaylovich Parshin, Chief of Armaments, Deputy Commander of the Volga-Ural MD for Armaments.
  • Colonel Pavel Petrovich Prepelitsa, Deputy Commander of the Leningrad MD for Socialization Work.
  • Rear-Admiral Aleksandr Gennadyevich Pushkarev, Deputy Commander of the Black Sea Fleet for Socialization Work.
  • General-Major Aleksandr Alekseyevich Filipenko, Chief, Missile-Artillery Armament Service, Siberian MD.

Lipetsk Scandal Update

Let’s update the action.

It’s rare when a single incident like Lipetsk is deemed serious enough to warrant a quick public response.  But that’s what’s happening.

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov has ordered checks for corruption in large formations, formations, and units [i.e. army-level down].  His press-service says they’ll look specifically for premium pay kickback schemes.  And servicemen and their families are urged to fill out electronic complaint forms on Mil.ru if they know about extortion rackets.  They don’t need to observe the chain of command either.

Newsru.com has a good recap.  VVS Deputy CINC, General-Major Bondarev has confirmed the existence of a kickback scheme at Lipetsk.  But he also called Sulim and others cowards for not refusing to pay.  He also denied putting any pressure on the men.

As Newsru notes, MK has audio of Bondarev indicating otherwise.  Talking to Sulim, Bondarev claims he’s just angry he wasn’t promoted, his father illegally got him into the elite Lipetsk unit, and warns him that his fellow servicemen will kill him when they lose their premium pay.  The tape also showed that Sulim only wants to resign because of the corruption, not for personal reasons, as Bondarev claims. 

In fact, Sulim hopes to continue serving.

Gazeta.ru focused on Bondarev’s comment that it’s possible violations at Lipetsk are administrative rather than criminal [which would make Kovalskiy no more guilty than Smirnov or Sulim].  Bondarev claims Major Kubarev retracted his support for Sulim [Kubarev’s also being reported as Kubyrev].

Gazeta then talked to Sulim, who points out Bondarev only investigated in the 3rd squadron, not in the 1st or 4th squadrons, because the leadership is trying to limit the damage, and to make it look like it’s one squadron’s problem, and not a base-wide scheme.

You can see Bondarev’s own words in his 24 May interview with Ekho moskvy.

The RVSN actually moved out on this scandal before the Defense Ministry:

“Taking into account the recent events in one of the RF Defense Ministry’s units,  connected with the illegal collection of money from servicemen, and to preclude the occurrence of similar situations in RVSN units, RVSN Commander, General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev has decided to establish permanently functioning commissions in every missile army to prevent similar legal violations.”

The press release said commissions will conduct anonymous surveys of officers and their families, and also look for this during inspections.  But there might already be a lot of work to do.

Look at the impassioned comment a retired RVSN lieutenant colonel left on the webpage for Olga Bozhyeva’s interview with Sulim and Smirnov:

“Such kickbacks go on THROUGHOUT Russia’s VS [Armed Forces]!!  It would be possible to jail ALL commanders of ALL units in Russia in good conscience!!”

“I live in the military town of an RVSN division.  Many of my acquaintances are still serving.  Previously they included ONLY SELECTED ‘RELIABLE’ officers in the order for the annual receipt of this mad money (extra MONTHLY pay up to 160-200 thousand rubles!!!) — but not more than 30% of the unit’s officers.  EVERYONE knows that they collect ‘tribute’ from this money paid according to MO RF Order № 400:  and who gets it, and who doesn’t, and their wives, and the osobisty (FSB), and the prosecutors, and even conscript soldiers [know who gets it]!!  And such corruption arranges EVERYTHING — it’s clear that both prosecutors and osobisty get it!  And it also arranges the officers who give the most ‘tribute’ — refuse to pay, they find a reason and deprive you of this mad, undeserved money!!!”

“Of course there’s hostility among officers, and their wives because of the payment of this money!  You bet!  Of two similar officers fulfilling similar duties, one gets SEVERAL TIMES more!!  Not 2, 3, 5, 10, or 20 thousand rubles a months more, but several times more!!!  Meanwhile, it’s usually not the best, but the ‘reliable’ one who will ‘kickback’ money without a fuss!!”

“THIS UNDERMINES ALL FOUNDATIONS of the Russian Army and its COMBAT READINESS!!  ONLY AN ENEMY OF RUSSIA could think up such a thing!!”

Not Denmark

Yes, Russia is definitely not Denmark.  It’s more like the DROC.

Vision of Humanity has released its 2011 Global Peace Index (GPI), which places the Russian Federation as the 147th least peaceful country in the world.  To get your bearings, Pakistan is 146th.  The DROC is 148th, North Korea 149th, etc.

The most peaceful countries were Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark, Czech Republic, etc.  The United States was 82nd.

The study uses 21 indicators of peacefulness; it doesn’t just count active conflicts.  It looks at societal security and safety issues and militarization.  The results are tested against related indicators on democracy, tolerance, education, etc., things where a country would be expected to score high or low depending on how peaceful it is.

At any rate, add Russia’s 147th on the GPI to its “Not Free” rating by Freedom House, its 154th on TI’s Corruption Perception Index, and its 140th on RWB’s Press Freedom Index.

Some Russian media coverage of the GPI . . .

Novyye izvestiya quotes Sergey Karaganov:

“A steady negative background is following Russia in recent years.  And this influences the evaluations of experts.”

He says not to believe such semi-artificial research fully, but:

“It’s true Russia doesn’t appear to be a peace-loving country.  Because we have quite an impressive history of using armed forces and a quite strong power element in our domestic and foreign policy.  So there’s nothing offensive or surprising in this.  We actually use force in conflict situations.  We conducted two ‘victorious’ wars in the last decade.  One of them civil in Chechnya, the second in Georgia.  Therefore, it’s not appropriate to talk about needing to compare us with Denmark.  And the fact that we’re in such company [Pakistan, DROC???] should make us think.”

Aleksandr Khramchikhin doesn’t think this assessment of peacefulness is objective:

“From a scientific point of view, such ratings are bogus because a green square sums it up.  No kind of strict scientific assessments could be done this way.  Therefore, if this rating in some way coincides with reality, it’s completely accidental.  In general, it’s incomprehensible why such indicators, as, for example, corruption are included there.  It seems to me that everything’s very artificial in the indicators.”

Chaskor.ru notes that Russia’s 147th rating on a list of 153 countries is a drop of four places from last year.  Looking into the report, it concludes Russia’s high level of crime and terrorist threat along with its significant spending on its power ministries explain its low ranking for peacefulness.  It also rated high for the ratio of police and internal security personnel to total population.

Another Exploding Ammo Dump

Another Depot Burns and Explodes

This time it’s the 99th Artillery Depot in Bashkortostan.  A fire during the decommissioning of 120mm shells caused the conflagration.  Residents of the nearest populated area, Urman, have been evacuated.  Fragments are flying 3-4 kilometers in all directions.  At least it wasn’t a heavily or densely populated zone.

Here’s RIA Novosti video of the scene.  The press service provided handy background on depot explosions over the last ten years.

And the Defense Ministry had just finished announcing that 20,000 rail cars’ worth of old stocks of munitions for World War III were destroyed during the last year.  But apparently not quickly or safely enough.

Such is the fate of a military reformer . . . Defense Minister Serdyukov’s doing the right thing, getting rid of this old Cold War-era excess, but stockpiles keep blowing up in the very process of trying to eliminate them.  And, as noted before, Serdyukov isn’t making any friends in localties near the demolition work.

Destroying old ammo is necessary, but the Russian military also needs to move faster on the effort to move depots away from cities and towns, and to construct more secure storage facilities.  Both more costly than just blowing up old stuff.

Meanwhile, managers and workers in Russia’s munitions industry have been pretty upset this year that their orders were drastically cut.  They’d obviously prefer to continue working and adding to the stockpile.  See Vladimir Mukhin’s article on this from March.

Loss of Fear or Loss of Faith?

Senior Lieutenant Sulim

Olga Bozhyeva has a great interview with the protagonists of the Lipetsk premium pay extortion scandal.  Essentially, Major Smirnov and Senior Lieutenant Sulim detail a farcical investigation, and what looks like a wider-ranging criminal conspiracy.  The entire Air Forces, not just the Lipetsk center, are in serious damage-control mode.

Bozhyeva introduces the piece as showing that even elite units suffer from corruption, and points out the center’s chief, General-Major Aleksandr Kharchevskiy, gave Vladimir Putin a test flight, and led combat aircraft that overflew Red Square on Victory Day 2010.  The two young aviators told her they had to talk immediately because time is against them.

Smirnov described his experience with the extortion scheme.  He said those refusing to pay got reprimands that could be used to force them out, and, with many officers being cut already, this threat was especially serious.  Or, he says, higher-ups would simply take away their “400” pay, and give it to someone willing to pay tribute.  Smirnov says the extortionists also collected as much as 240,000 rubles a year from conscripts.  He also recalled seeing Sulim’s draft complaint about corruption, and agreeing to support the younger officer.  Their ex-squadron commander, Major Yevgeniy Kubarev, joined them.

The VVS sent Deputy CINC, General-Major Viktor Bondarev to investigate, but, as Smirnov says, everyone who wanted to see him had to talk to the center’s Chief of Staff, Colonel Eduard Kovalskiy (the scheme’s ostensible organizer), Kharchevskiy, the new squadron commander (a Kovalskiy crony), zampolit (and bag man) Colonel Sergey Sidorenko, and FSB man Major Zatsepin first.  Afterwards, Kovalskiy already knew all details of what they told the VVS investigator.  Kovalskiy apparently talked to the father of one officer in an attempt to pressure him against supporting Sulim and Smirnov.  The squadron CO reportedly told one officer, if he talked openly, he’d be the first dismissed.

Sulim confirmed that his father is a VVS one-star general.  Bondarenko asked Sulim, don’t you think they’ll dismiss your father after this?  Then Sulim sums it up:

“So it’s hardly possible to talk about any real observance of legality.  Now you understand why we came to you [Bozhyeva].”

Sulim and Smirnov don’t accuse Kharchevskiy, but Smirnov says he’s afraid the extortion scheme goes higher, up to the VVS Glavkomat, because, if this involved just one colonel and one air group, it would’ve been cleared up quickly.

Smirnov says he and Kubarev have sent their families away from Lipetsk, as a precaution.

At the end, Bozhyeva asks Sulim and Smirnov what results they want from the interview.

Smirnov says:

“Our goal is for a fair, independent commission, a fair prosecutor to come.”

Sulim adds:

“Not from Tambov, but from Moscow.  That is, those people to whom I, in essence, wrote on the Internet.  Otherwise, they’ll choke all of us here with these kinds of investigations.  We’re standing before such a precedent now!”

Smirnov then says, “All the Armed Forces are watching us.”

Then with the wisdom of someone twice his age, Sulim concludes:

“If they manage to strangle us now, then those men that rob officers will lose their fear completely, and those they rob, — they will finally lose their faith in their commanders.  The consequences will be terrible.”

Where’s the Head of the Snake?

A Defense Ministry commission has established some facts of extortion and kickbacks alleged by Air Forces Senior Lieutenant Sulim, according to Interfaks.  The military prosecutor also says the investigation thus far confirms what Sulim charged in his Internet address, and cases are being brought against some officers.

RIA Novosti identifies Colonel Eduard Kovalskiy as a “unit” commander, and Colonel Sergey Sidorenko as his deputy for socialization work.  Yesterday, it looked like Kovalskiy was Sidorenko’s deputy.  But both men are too senior in rank for a squadron.  The two made 2 million rubles off the premium pay extortion scheme since 2010, and will be prosecuted for exceeding their authority.

RIA Novosti cited officials saying Sulim continues to serve, and has not resigned as other media sources claimed.

Lifenews.ru reported five officers from Sulim’s squadron have given statements confirming his allegations.

Yesterday various sources provided excerpts from a long Moskovskiy komsomolets interview with Sulim, and with his deputy squadron commander, Major Anton Smirnov, who’s supporting him. 

Smirnov says he was told he had to participate in the collection of tribute, or his career was over.  He anticipates criminal charges against himself since he had to handle kickbacks.

Of the official investigation thus far, Smirnov says the Defense Ministry and VVS commission was no more than a “fire brigade” sent to “extinguish the scandal.”

 The two officers say officials from all power ministries, the military prosecutor and counterintelligence, have come to their unit, and pressured officers to contradict Sulim’s charges.

According to the MK interview, Sulim tried to resign, but his request lacked all necessary signatures.

We have to look closely at Sulim’s and Smirnov’s long interview, but one issue is salient . . . in this particular scheme to extort premium pay from subordinates, and funnel it upwards, where’s the head of the snake?  And how many schemes like it exist in other units and formations?