I’m not sure how to take or what do to with yesterday’s Izvestia’s article (Mosnews has an English summary here) which reports that the slain leader of the Chechen nationalist movement, Alan Maskhadov believed Shamil Basaev was taking money from Boris Berezhovsky to wage war against Russia in the interests of the US and England. This information comes from statements from one “Maskhadovtsy” named Vakhit Murdashev and his lawyer Baiali El’murzaev. According to their statements, Maskhadov wanted reconcile with Moscow because he viewed that the US and England’s geopolitical interests in the Caucuses posed a more dangerous threat to Chechnya than the Kremlin. According to information Murdashev provided Izvestiia,
“Aslan Maskhadov feared that Shamil Basaev fell under the influence of Berezovskii, and worker for him for money, and could lose sight of the idea of independence and go under the sway of the West. If this was correct, [it could] work on tearing the Caucuses away from Russia. [Maskhadov and Basaev] had a fundemental disagreement over this, and in conversations with Murdashev, Maskhadov said that it was better to form an alliance with Russia than fall under the sway of the West.”
Potentially explosive stuff. However, some caution should be taken considering how some of the players are connected. Placing the exiled oligarch and major Kremlin critic Boris Berezhovsky as Basaev’s financier seems way to good to be true from the Kremlin’s perspective. Berezhovsky fled Russia to France to escape a fate similar to Mikhail Khordokovsky. The Berezhovsky-Basaev-US/Britian connection seems too conspiratorial and too easily explained as Russian concern about the US influence in the region. But what this story also presents is some bad news for the Kremlin. When Maskhadov was killed, many commentators quickly pointed out that Moscow now had no one to talk to on the Chechen side. According to other information released since his death, Maskhadov was trying to sue for peace with Russia. There are no such hopes with someone like Basaev. If the report in Izvestiia is true, it only shows further how Maskhadov’s death was a major and tragic mistake.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Exact Russian military casualties in the Chechen War have been hard to pin down. The problem is that the Defense Ministry is known to keep such figures guarded from public scrutiny. According to Mosnews, the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces claims that 3,826 troops were killed, 17,892 were wounded, and 1,906 were missing in action in the first Chechen War, 1994-1996. For the second war, 1999-present, casualty figures are “unclear and often contradictory.” The only official figure given was by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in December of 2002. He reported that total losses of federal forces were 4,572 killed and 15,549 wounded. No official update has since been given.
But even the above figures have been met with scrutiny. The human rights groups Prague Watchdog and the Union Committee of Soldiers Mothers of Russia have both raised skepticism about the reliability of the Kremlin’s figures.
Compounded with the Russian’s lack of transparency in casualty figures, is the fact that more than one Russian and Chechen security forces operate in the region. In addition to the standard military, police, FSB, and Ministry of the Interior (MVD) troops as well as Kadyrov’s squads also engage in what is now called “anti-terrorist activities.”
According to a short article by Vladimir Mukhin in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the chaotic and deadly situation in Chechnya continues. Nothing says this more than the high casualty rate Russian MVD forces are still sustaining in the region. Based on Russian Defense Ministry figures published last week, Mukhin writes,
In July of this year six servicemen were killed in the course of fulfilling their service duties in Chechnya. And it is noted that all of them fell in battle. These were members of the elite spetsnaz (special-purpose forces) group that was fired on at almost point-blank range on the highway near the settlement of Avtury on 4 July. A further 15 soldiers and offices were wounded during that battle. According to ‘s sources in the military department, a subunit of troop unit No. 54607 from near Tambov fell into an ambush. It is not ruled out that the emergency visit by Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov to Chechnya on 11 July was prompted by this tragedy.
Russian Federation Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliyev is also concerned about losses among his subordinates. In Makhachkala the minister drew attention to the fact that about 200 police officers and Internal Troops servicemen have been killed in Dagestan in the past four years. In 2005 alone there were more than 100 attacks, as a result of which 60 personnel were killed and more than 120 wounded. According to Nurgaliyev, since the beginning of this year 22 police officers have been killed and 59 wounded as a result of terrorist acts in Pakistan.
The statistics show that one police officer or serviceman is killed in the North Caucasus nearly every day. Although there are as yet no complete figures on this. Only the Russian Federation Defense Ministry continues to give reports of losses on a monthly basis. In all, since the beginning of 2006 42 Defense Ministry servicemen have been killed in Chechnya, and one is missing. From the beginning of the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya (1999) to the present day, 3,588 Russian Federation Defense Ministry servicemen have been killed in the course of their service duties and 31 have gone missing. The losses in MVD structures are as follows: In 2004-2005 236 people were killed from among representatives of the law-enforcement agencies, and 279 from among servicemen of the Russian Federation MVD Internal Troops. As of today there are no official figures on losses among police officers and Internal Troops servicemen in Chechnya in 2006.
All of this comes with another article written by Mukhin on how the idea of a Russian contract army is failing. Mukhin writes,
It follows from the documents drawn up in the General Staff that at the present time the Armed Forces are suffering from the massive breaking of military-service contracts by soldiers and sergeants. Thus, according to the chief of a group of analytical subunits in the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate (GOMU) of the General Staff, Col Yevgeniy Shabalin, in 2005 12.9 percent of servicemen who became professionals prematurely stopped military service (that is, they broke their contracts). In the case of the 42nd Motorized-Rifle Division stationed in Chechnya and operating, as is known, under combat conditions, almost every third professional broke his contract early.
The RF Armed Forces expects a similar trend in 2006, although in smaller proportions. This does not even worry Col Shabalin so much as the fact that a significant number of servicemen who signed a first contract do not intend to extend it.
According to the RF Defense Ministry’s Sociological Center, only 15-19 percent of professionals of the RF Armed Forces are ready to sign a second contract. Thus, over the next 2-3 years, the troops may lose the backbone of professionals who signed contracts in 2004-2005 (the document is signed for three years) and now constitute the foundation of the so-called permanent-combat-readiness forces. It is understandable that this will affect the quality parameters of the country’s entire national defense, since the significant shortfall caused by leaving professionals will have to be restored by other people recruited from civilian life and from among other young soldiers. They will have to be trained again, subunits will have to be coordinated, etc. And this, of course, will cost money, since almost half the army will have to be retrained in accordance with the professional programs. According to the information of GOMU chief Col-Gen Vasiliy Smirnov, it is planned to have 40-45 percent contract soldiers in table-of-organization positions in the Armed Forces in 2008. Here the professional sergeant layer is to exceed 50 percent.
Of course, the Defense Ministry is undertaking measures to change the situation: it is working harder with military commissariats and on the quality of contractor recruitment, increasing moral incentives, and intensifying indoctrination work in the troops. However, this is plainly far from enough, since the motivation of professionals for the work, as the polls of military sociologists show, depends primarily on the material incentives determined by the state. Some 29 percent of the professionals surveyed did not want to continue military service because of the absence of conditions for rest and leisure (clubs, sports facilities, etc). In the past the Finance Ministry has significantly cut expenditures for these items, although the government has approved a federal targeted program (FPTs) for changing the troops over to a professional basis. Some 27 percent of the contractors intend to leave the Army because of low pay. This is completely explainable. On average, a professional receives very little even by average-Russian standards — from 7,000 to 9,000 rubles. True, this figure amounts to 15,000 rubles in Chechnya. But even this money is not a sufficient incentive today. Next year the 42nd Division in Chechnya expects a mass exodus of contractors. Some 26 percent of those polled explained their upcoming departure from the army by the failure to solve the housing problem. This is again connected with the federal targeted program: the government skimped on money for small-family construction, and the majority of contractors now live in refurbished barracks.
It appears that the Russian military’s own failures at improving soldiers living conditions and compensation has killed any hope of establishing a professional army in Russia for the foreseeable future.All translations of Russian text are from Johnson’s Russia ListPost Views: 767
By Sean — 12 years ago
The first parliamentary elections since 2000 will be held in Azerbaijan on Sunday. For those looking for extensive coverage should point their mouse to Radio Free Europe’s “Azerbaijan Votes”. There you will find up-to-date news along with an archive of articles on Azeri politics from the last few months.
I am far from an expert on the political situation in Azerbaijan and Radio Free Europe provides a helpful timeline that explains events all the way back to October 2003. Many watchers of the region doubt the elections will be fair. Things started to get real heated when former parliament speaker and leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADP) Rasul Guliev decided to return to Baku after living in exile in the United States since 1996. He vowed to participate in the upcoming elections. The Azeri government warned that Guliev would be arrested if he entered the country. Guliev has been charged with embezzlement. Charges he claims, and probably are, politically motivated. When Guliev learned that the Baku airport was surrounded by troops waiting to arrest him, he had the plane turned around.
The threats against the ADP didn’t stop there. Last Tuesday, Azeri authorities brought criminal charges against ADP deputy chairman Natiq Efendiyev for planning a coup and instigating mass unrest. Then on Wednesday, four alleged coup plotters appeared on prime time Azeri TV in a spectacle that harked back to Soviet times. The “plotters”, which included former Finance Minister Fikrat Yusifov; Fikrat Sadyqov, the former head of Azerbaijan’s state-controlled Azerkimya petrochemical company; former Health Minister Ali Insanov; and former presidential administration official Akif Muradverdiyev, admitted their plan to overthrow the Aliyev government. Yusifov was arrested hours before Guliev’s supposed arrival and his confession led to the arrest of the three others. Reports say that 13 other government officials, business leaders, police officials, and cabinet ministers have been held for the last two weeks on charges of plotting a coup, possession of weapons, embezzlement and corruption. This crackdown hardly bodes fell for free and fair elections, but few figured that was a possibility anyway.
Mikhail Vladimirov of the Moscow News wonders if this “cliff-hanging thriller” will spark “colored” revolution in Azerbaijan. After all, he writes, “the tradition that has evolved in the post-Soviet states, presidential or parliamentary elections are an excellent opportunity for regime change.” Given the political tension that has been developing over the last two months, the situation is certainly ripe. If “revolution” does break out, it will probably follow the now predictable pattern of declaring the elections rigged, the people fill the streets, the international community putting pressure on the regime in power, and finally a peaceful compromise is reached on the transfer of power. Revolution reissued and repackaged. However, this time things might be different. Vladimirov notes that the Aliyev government didn’t passively sit and watch their power evaporate as their Ukrainian, Georgian and Kyrgyz counterparts did. In a series of preemptive strikes against the opposition, the Aliyev government, as narrated above, neutralized its opponents. The potential Azeri “colored revolution” was left without a leader with Guliev barred from returning.
Still one wonders further: is this the only path to “democracy” in the former Soviet Republics? Or is it how those in the West, especially the US favors it. It should be noted that all three “colored” revolutions have been pro-Western, and specifically pro-US. One can’t forget the geopolitical and petrol importance Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan in the United States’ long term interests. I am not suggesting that the US is behind these “revolutions”, though evidence has shown it certainly gave them political, if not monetary support. This is more about the politics of democracy, and how on the surface, one is apt to support the opposition because those in power look so bad. But is this really a struggle of good versus evil? Or is it more about how “democracy” frequently can and is used to bolster the moral authority of one side over another? I’m afraid that most of us are cynical enough to understand that it is not whether the elections are fair; it is about whether the right side manipulated them and public and global opinion enough to win.
In the terms of the specifics of Azeri politics, I don’t know enough to say. But there seems to be a familiar pattern brewing in the former Soviet Union. The only question is whether these “democratic revolutions” are really generated from below and within those nations, or are they simply machinations of those above and outside. If it is the latter and not the former, the “colored revolution” will quickly fade into the drab hue of politics as usual.Post Views: 90