Category Archives: Military Law

Policy To-and-Fro on Military Police

State Secretary and Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov probably didn’t surprise a lot of people when he announced the latest Defense Ministry flip (or flop this time?) on the military police issue last week.

 Pankov announced that:

 “The Defense Ministry has found the establishment of military police inexpedient at this stage of Army and Navy reform.  Directive documents on the establishment of military police in the Russian Army have been suspended, and orders on the formation of these structures in the military districts and the fleets have lost force.”

 Later, the press quoted Pankov differently:

 “I wouldn’t say it so categorically – this work is suspended for now.”

But he didn’t elaborate on the Defense Ministry’s reasons for stopping or suspending the effort at this moment.

Military police units are, or were, supposed to stand up in 2010.  Their mission was to maintain order and discipline, and prevent hazing and other barracks violence and crime, primarily thefts of military property.  A military police department started working in the Defense Ministry’s Main Combat Training and Troop Service Directorate last December, drawing up plans and training programs for the new MP units.

In early February, a Defense Ministry representative denied press reports that Defense Minister Serdyukov had suspended work on the military police force.  But a source in the Defense Ministry’s press service told the media that “the documents establishing it have been sent to the appropriate legal directorates for reworking.”  He said that forming the military police would require amendments in federal legislation beyond the Defense Minister’s purview.

The back-and-forth, on-and-off nature of Russia’s yet-to-be created military police calls into question the Defense Ministry’s capacity to formulate and implement policies, or at least to do it so its doesn’t  look foolish.  Why would any military district commander or brigade chief of staff hurry to introduce any new policy or regulation that might just be overturned 6 months from now, or never implemented at all? 

As with the rumored halt in February, the latest stop may in fact be related to legal issues, but they usually only become an obstacle when they’re really protecting someone’s bureaucratic empire.  In this case, the military prosecutor and MVD are obviously very interested parties when it comes to devising a military police policy.  And they are pretty big hitters vis-à-vis the Defense Ministry.

The Defense Ministry already has plenty of people and organizations involved in military law enforcement, but they seem unable or unwilling to organize and cooperate to do the job.  Existing military law enforcement mechanisms could be made to work properly. 

Another sticking point may continue to be who will be in charge of a new military police force.  The prosecutor and MVD probably don’t want military police to answer to the Defense Ministry.  Military commanders could misuse or corrupt military police who would be enforcing laws on those commanders as well as ordinary servicemen. talked to Anatoliy Tsyganok in this vein.  He said:

 “It once again attests to poorly thought-out reforms, zigzagging from side to side, senseless expenditure of resources needed for reequipping the army, and social programs.”

From the get-go, Tsyganok was against spending a ‘not small’ amount of money on a new structure seen as a panacea for all the army’s ills, at a time when the existing military command structure should be able to handle military police functions.

Tsyganok continues:

“. . . I came out not against military police per se, but against the dissipation of resources allocated for army reform:  the fact that they change conscripts for contractees, but then reverse this, the fact that they bring Yudashkin to design uniforms, but then chuck it, now here’s the confusion with military police.  It’d be better to use these resources on weapons for the army.  Russia’s military-industrial complex exports 90 percent of its production.  Aircraft to China and India, helicopters to Latin America and Middle Eastern countries.  Automatic weapons to Venezuela.  But the Russian Army scrapes by with old weapons.  At the same time money is invested in not well thought-out projects.”

“At present our servicemen who have violated order or broken the law are sent to do their time in basements, in special trenches, in storage areas.  Serdyukov doesn’t have financial resources even to build apartments for officers, there can’t even be talk about guardhouses.”

 “Now order among the troops is controlled by commandant (komendatura) forces, commandant patrols, commandant platoons and regiments, internal details; military traffic police structures are active.  This is a huge force.  For example, in Moscow there are 10 districts.  An integral commandant regiment patrols every district.  And is this little?  But military prosecutors, special departments [OO – FSB men—особисты or osobisty, embedded in large military groupings, units, and garrisons] also exist to maintain legal order in the army.  We need to force all this organizational and personnel mass to work effectively.  But for this the Defense Ministry itself needs to work effectively, and not spend money on schemes.”

 “The Defense Ministry leadership in answer to criticism about rampant crime in the army created nothing but the appearance of vigorous activity.  It’s hard to keep order, but forming something else at the expense of budget resources is easy.”

 “The failure of the project was sealed in its very organizational basis.  They proposed to subordinate the military police to the Defense Ministry in the person of the first deputy minister.  The fact is the very same operational structure of military control and repression would wind up in the hands of military leaders themselves.  This is a criminally corrupt thing.  Any Defense Minister, major troop commander, or independent unit commander could arrest on any pretext and end the contract of any inconvenient serviceman.”

Tsyganok kind of skirts around the issue without saying so, but it may be there’s not enough money to pay for building a military police force.

 Interfaks cited Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Mikhail Babich, who called on the Defense Ministry to be more cautious about making changes in the armed forces and to avoid revoking its own decisions, as may be happening in the case of military police.  Babich is a somewhat critical and independent-minded member of Putin’s United Russia party.  He also said armed forces reforms require serious budget expenditures, so every time this or that program is dropped, the reasons should be closely studied and analyzed.  He concludes:

“I think the Defense Minister should hold to account those who were responsible for drawing up and implementing programs deemed unsuccessful.  First of all, this means the federal targeted program for recruiting professional sergeants in 2009-2015, which has not really started and the allocated money was spent on different purposes.”

Babich goes on to note that it’s still unclear what’s happening with Russia’s 85 permanent readiness combined arms brigades that replaced divisions in the Ground Troops.

“The Defense Ministry is keeping silent about this but it’s already clear that plans to establish permanent readiness combined arms brigades have fallen through.  As a result, it’s been decided to divide them into three types:  heavy, medium, and light.  Yet again everything is being done by rule of thumb.”

Update on Military Corruption, State Losses, and Crime

Main Military Prosecutor (GVP) Sergey Fridinskiy observed last week that it will only be possible to deal with corruption when not just the law enforcement organs, but also responsible officials in the military command hierarchy become involved in fighting it.

At last week’s coordinating conference on fighting corruption in the armed forces and other armed formations, Fridinskiy reported that, in January and February, military corruption cases increased by 10 percent over year ago figures, and material losses to the state in those first months of 2010 were 5 times greater than in 2009.  Inflation and an increased volume of arms purchases were cited as contributing to the spike. 

In 2009, corruption cases increased 5 percent in military units.  Fraud and forgery cases increased 50 percent, but misappropriation, embezzlement, bribery, misuse, and abuse of authority also grew. 

Fridinskiy said:

“For such crimes, 543 officers, including some higher officials, were convicted last year.  Last year military prosecutors uncovered nearly 7,500 violations of the law in this area, more than 2,000 responsible individuals were held to varying degrees of accountability in connection with 540 warnings delivered about unacceptable legal violations.”

Fridinskiy maintains that corruption doesn’t just have a negative economic impact, it also has an extremely demoralizing effect on military units.  He noted that the State Defense Order (GOZ) and the provision of social benefits to servicemen are trouble areas for military corruption.  He said:

“Placing a barrier against incidents of illegal and mismanaged expenditure of budget resources allocated for reequipping troops with new arms and military equipment, but also providing housing to servicemen, people discharged from military service, and family members is one of the complex, but principle tasks.”

Fridinskiy said a systemic fight against corruption was particularly important at a time of rising expenditures on the defense budget and rearmament.  He cited improved legislation, departmental regulations, reduced opportunities for misappropriation, guaranteed transparency and competition in tenders and state contracting as possible measures.  He continued:

“It’s also important to strengthen the role of control-auditing organs at all levels, to raise the level of inter-departmental  coordination, to conduct active propaganda work necessary to create an atmosphere where corruption is unacceptable.”

Fridinskiy reportedly proposed changing the existing GOZ system:

“We’re now working in the first place on putting systematic changes into the purchasing system so that prices will be down to earth, and not astronomical, so that it will be possible to organize this work in the bounds of current demand for purchases, and in order that not only the purchaser, but also those performing the work will bear responsibility for what they are doing.”

Representing the Defense Ministry, State Secretary and Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov reported that his department has created a special financial inspectorate sub-unit to exercise control on the use of its resources:

“Finance specialists, economists, mostly not from the armed forces, have been asked to join the financial inspectorate, and my presentation today concerned the effectiveness of the work of the financial inspectorate.  All the results that the financial inspectorate turn up are given to the organs of the military prosecutor.”

Recall, of course, that the Defense Ministry claimed it had a major anticorruption drive in progress this winter.  Maybe these are some of the results.

Attendees at GVP conference included representatives of the Federation Council, Duma, Military Collegium of the RF Supreme Court, Military-Investigative Directorate of the RF Prosecutor’s Investigative Committee, Ministry of Defense, MVD’s Main Command of Internal Troops, Ministry of Emergency Situations, and the FSB’s Border Service and Department [once Directorate?] of Military Counterintelligence.

Chief of the GVP’s Oversight Directorate Aleksandr Nikitin  repeated an earlier publicized statistic on a 16 percent reduction in military crime last year.  Nikitin credited widespread GVP preventative measures for the decline in crime.  He also noted the induction of more conscripts with higher education and supplementary performance pay for commanders as positive factors.  According to him, with the extra money, young commanders have started to pay more attention to ensuring order in their units.  Nikitin also says the overwhelming majority of the country’s military units generally function without crime or other incidents.

Military Police, Open Up!

On 12 March, Krasnaya zvezda profiled what might be the armed forces’ first military police department (OVP) in the Astrakhan military garrison, under the Navy’s Caspian Flotilla.

A Statute and Instruction cover the authority and operations of Russia’s military police (MPs).  The KZ article says their formal functions reinforcing discipline, providing security, conducting antiterrorism measures, and controlling traffic.

Russian military police are a long time coming and far from all are happy about the idea.  Instituting an MP force was first debated in the mid-1990s, but it didn’t happen.  The major sticking point was whether the military police would answer to, or be independent of, the Defense Ministry.

As recently as very late 2005, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov didn’t support the idea, but hardly a month later, after the notorious Sychev abuse case, then-President Putin and then-Defense Minister Ivanov came out for establishing a military police force, primarily to halt violent crime and abuse in the barracks.  But the concept fell by the wayside after several months of debate.

Just as suddenly as the thought of military police disappeared, it resurfaced last fall.  The force was to be established on 1 December with a strength of 5,000 personnel, and military police units were to work jointly with local military komendaturas [commandant’s offices] for the first year before subsuming them.

As in the 1990s, the idea encountered considerable opposition primarily from the RF Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy.  Lukin supports military police but only if they are independent of the Defense Ministry.  He has said military officials don’t need one more bureaucratic apparatus.  For his part, Fridinskiy said:

“We need to think clearly about all aspects of this issue, including those connected with legal and financial support. Moreover, where will we find such a number of qualified people?  In our country’s conditions, it’s not a certainty that military police will bring positive changes.  Where is the guarantee that we won’t get the very same excesses that they always talk about in connection with the [civilian] police–we aren’t selecting different people, it’s all the same contingent.”

Fridinskiy seems to be worried about military prosecutors tripping over MPs, or MPs fouling the work of his prosecutors.  He definitely doesn’t entertain the idea that they could work well together. 

There were press rumors over the winter that Defense Minister Serdyukov had decided to scrap the plan to institute MPs, but defense spokesmen denied the reports.  And at least the very first OVP has appeared and gotten some publicity.

The Astrakhan garrison’s OVP chief is an O-4 who once served as head of the security department for an armaments storage base, and chief of the garrison’s guardhouse.  His KZ interviewer says the OVP Chief knows all the ins and outs of garrison service firsthand.

The OVP Chief says the composition of an OVP is determined by the size, locations, and characteristics of the garrison it serves.  His OVP has a security and convoy section, investigation section, and an MP platoon, and he describes its initial capabilities as modest.

The security and convoy section guards and transports prisoners to the prosecutor’s and military-investigative organs, to disciplinary battalions, or investigative detention.  The investigative section prepares cases against soldiers accused of disciplinary offenses.  The MP platoon is responsible for patrol service, preventing crime, and maintaining discipline within the garrison.

The article indicates the OVP will spend a lot of its efforts on searching for AWOL soldiers.  The OVP Chief indicated that komendaturas and military commissariats haven’t been able to concentrate on this job in the past for lack of resources.  Russian AWOLs are known as ‘sochintsy’ from the abbreviation SOCh, or those ‘willfully leaving the unit.’

The Astrakhan OVP Chief recognizes that liaison and relations with unit commanders, local civilian law enforcement, and municipal authorities will be key for him to do his job.  More likely and problematic, however, is the possibility of crossed wires with military prosecutors or the local branch of the military-investigative directorate.  There are already lots of investigators out there investigating military incidents.  The investigative authority of the MPs was a contentious issue in the debate over them.

Russia’s 5,000-strong MP force is a modest start for a million-man army, and the success of the effort can’t be judged until it’s possible to see how many, or how few, OVPs are established.  Past initiatives in military law enforcement aren’t particularly encouraging.

For example, the 2005 effort to reestablish the guardhouse–administrative confinement–in order to do away with the army’s five disciplinary battalions (disbats)–the idea was abandoned when Serdyukov arrived because it required sending men guilty of more serious offenses into the civilian penal system where, unlike the disbat, they would get a permanent criminal record.  The guardhouse effort also went unrealized because it was costly; 98 old guardhouses needed to be rebuilt and 44 new ones were proposed.  And so the disbat lives.  Similarly, the Defense Ministry may discover it doesn’t want to pay to create a lot of OVPs.

Only time will tell how far or wide MPs will be implemented.

Fridinskiy’s Latest Military Corruption Report

Sergey Fridinskiy (photo: photoxpress)

An Interfaks reporter has interviewed Main Military Prosecutor (GVP) Sergey Fridinskiy for the pages of today’s Izvestiya

Not surprisingly, Fridinskiy didn’t really bite when asked if the GVP had any hand in the recent Defense Ministry cadre ‘revolution.’  He said the GVP keeps its hands on its part [i.e. law enforcement]. 

Fridinskiy says the GVP monitored the implementation of the ‘new profile.’  In some places, it went more or less normally, but in others, it got out of hand and there were mass violations of servicemen’s rights, like putting 600 men in a barracks for 300.  So the prosecutor reacts to such a situation.  Fridinskiy said the GVP gave quarterly reports on violations to the Defense Minister. 

Asked about the military’s involvement in the tragic ‘Lame Horse’ club fire in Perm, Fridinskiy said the chief and chief engineer of the KECh which was responsible for the property were aware of what was going on there and might have been getting a cut, but the fact that they allowed gross fire safety violations resulting in a tragedy with many victims is what resulted in the investigation and criminal case against them.  He indicated the KECh chief died in the fire, and they are investigating whether the chief engineer got bribes.  Fridinskiy noted other responsible military officials in the district got disciplinary punishment. 

On the ‘Steppe’ garrison boiler house case, Fridinskiy revealed that state inspectors looked at it in May or June and declared it unfit for use, but the locals did cosmetic repairs and used it anyway.  He says other districts and garrisons, especially Kostroma, are being inspected.  He believes old equipment is largely to blame, but it’s up to the GVP to force people to do their jobs and not let the situation reach the point of an accident. 

Fridinskiy termed the general crime situation in the armed forces as stable, with some favorable points.  Registered offenses were down 16 percent in 2009 against the year before.  The numbers of grievous and especially grievous crimes were down.  These figures were for all uniformed power ministries, not just the armed forces.  Dedovshchina looked like it would continue a significant decline, but actually ended up increasing by 2 percent.

Asked to address the reported interethnic Baltic Fleet incident, involving Slavs and Caucasians, Fridinskiy said:

“As a rule, we’re talking not about interethnic fights, but interpersonal conflicts.  For us it’s just accepted:  if a Slav gives it to another Slav based on appearance, then this is simply a fight.  But if the very same thing happens with a Caucasian participating, then another hue appears here, even though the fight is based, as a rule, on a normal everyday situation.  However taking into account the mentality of southerners, who’re inclined to stick together, a fight between two guys grows into a group fight, and the appearance of an interethnic conflict comes up.  When the affair goes to criminal responsibility for nonregulation relations, an ethnic motive doesn’t figure in.  But rumors continue to pressurize the circumstances.”

Fridinskiy claims that in the group of ‘barracks hooligans’ in the Kaliningrad garrison there were both North Caucasians and Slavs [but were they part of the same group or in different groups?].  He said 8 were charged in the incident, and some have already been convicted.

Asked about crime among higher officers, Fridinskiy says malfeasance, exceeding authority, and fraud were the biggest offenses.  Eight generals [probably from all power ministries] were convicted and six got prison terms from 3 to 5 years.  He said the theft of state money was greatest in the GOZ, RDT&E, and housing programs.  He indicates he’s investigating 8 cases where apartments didn’t get built by the SU-155 construction firm, despite the fact there were state contracts in place for them.

Fridinskiy seems to indicate he registered 1,500 crimes among senior officers in 2009 [as of late October, he had this number at a little less than 900].

As for how to fix the crime situation in the military, Fridinskiy doesn’t offer much advice beyond using the law.  Of course, that gives him lots of business.

Poor Return on Defense Ministry Auctions

 On 10 January, Interfaks-AVN reported that the Defense Ministry has sent the federal budget a fraction of an expected 10 billion rubles in proceeds from sales of its property in 2009, according to a Federation Council committee source.  The Audit Chamber expected 10.6 billion rubles, but only 1.5 billon has been forwarded to the budget.  The income was supposed to come from the sale of vacant land, unused property, and excess equipment.  So, either the sales did not produce the anticipated profits or corruption in the Defense Ministry drained them away.  The source said there was accurate accounting of what was to be sold, and what should be gained from the sales, and so there’s an obvious temptation to steal.

 In a November Duma roundtable, the Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee, Mikhail Babich said:

“Corrupt practices in the army and navy increase every year, not least because of the Defense Ministry’s noncore functions.  At present the Defence Ministry itself takes stock of its noncore assets, values them itself, and sells military property, land, real estate, and entire military cantonments itself. Is this really the Defense Ministry’s function?  Why doesn’t the Defense Ministry hand its noncore assets over to the Federal Agency for the Management of State Property and the government, for a subsequent sale in accordance with the law?”

It doesn’t because pretty early on Defense Minister Serdyukov won a battle to keep this right inside his department.

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin picked up on this story yesterday.  He concludes right off that Serdyukov’s ambitious plans to profit from unused Defense Ministry property turned into a fiasco.  He notes the Defense Ministry hasn’t made a secret of this, saying on its auction site that more than half of planned auctions didn’t occur because of the lack of applications to participate.

Mukhin quotes Aleksandr Kanshin, chairman of the Public Chamber’s veterans, servicemen, and families committee, saying the unmet plan for selling excess military property (VVI) is more or less connected with last year’s economic crisis, but from the other side, it’s not really the Defense Ministry’s business to be salesman for state property, and military men have no experience, personnel, or resources for this.  Another interlocutor says there have been significant instances of corruption arising in the sale of VVI.

Simultaneously, the Defense Ministry’s Personnel Inspectorate and the Main Military Prosecutor (GVP) have launched a widespread anticorruption inspection under orders from Serdyukov.  The inspection covers Defense Ministry directorates, the armed services, branches, military districts, and fleets.  A law enforcement source told Interfaks the inspection aims to prevent crimes by officers and generals and will continue until 1 March.

The source said corruption and other offenses by several generals and senior officers had already been uncovered, and the central attestation commission might relieve them of their duties.  Offenses were noted in the VVS, VDV, Railroad Troops, and Ground Troops.

More than 40 percent of offenses by officers involved the theft of property or funds, and crime by senior officers is rising.  The GVP reported damages to the state from military corruption exceeded 2.5 billion rubles.

Krasnaya zvezda’s interview with the MVO military prosecutor is quite astounding.  He says he’s been implementing the national anticorruption plan since 2008, using an interdepartmental group, including “state security organ employees in the troops” [FSB officers] and command representatives.  So, in 2009, prosecutors and FSB officers investigated 190 cases.  Based on these, they gave commands 200 reports leading to disciplinary action against more than 300 “responsible parties.”  More than 130 investigations were directed to the “military-investigative organs” [the military section of the Investigative Committee or SK].  More than 100 criminal corruption cases were developed.  He credits the system of coordination among the “organs” involved.  But corruption sometimes has a very organized character.  He cites the loss of 128 million rubles to a corruption ring of officers from the Defense Ministry’s “central apparatus,” the apartment management directorate and staff of the MVO who stole and sold 140 vehicles and pieces of equipment in 2005-2008.

Mukhin gives some attention to the GVP’s figures too.  He adds that the GVP uncovered 1,500 corruption crimes in the ‘power’ ministries as a whole in 2009.  Every other case was either aggravated, or especially aggravated.  In 70 percent of cases, officers were the culprits.  In the GVP, they say that dishonest military commanders are making a fortune on auctions and contract bidding.

Mukhin then reminds everyone that it was Prime Minister Putin who, in late 2008, gave the Defense Ministry the right to handle its own VVI, rather than the Federal Agency for the Management of State Property.

Commenting for, Vladimir Temnyy also blames Putin for letting the Defense Ministry run these auctions.  The first thing Serdyukov intended was to inventory and get rid of noncore property and functions which lead generals to embezzle state funds, but this has apparently happened anyway since 9 billion rubles are missing.  So why wasn’t somebody like Serdyukov, as everyone expected, able to pull off a successful process of shedding VVI and benefiting the state.  Two reasons–the crisis and theft by his subordinates surpassing all conceivable limits.  Could the reformer become a victim of his own trust in his people?  The state won’t get the money back anyway because it’s already gone into fabulous suburban homes occupied by modest colonels and generals, according to Temnyy.  So the sale of VVI has raised military living standards after all, at least for some.

Recall also that Nikolay Poroskov said one source told him the recent command changes weren’t just about age and rotations, a third reason was the results of the personnel [and GVP?] inspection above.

Also, there’s the talk about devising a new “officer’s honor code.”  Certainly, it will prohibit corruption.  Can’t be a coincidence.