Vladimir Putin Speeds up Army Reform

Russian president talked to senior army officials, urging them to look into current issues of the Russian army

The reform of Russian military departments - Defense Ministry and Internal Affairs Ministry is in full swing. The Internal Affairs Ministry (chaired by Boris Gryzlov) will have new departments in its structure: the Federal Police, the Municipal Police, the National Guards and the Federal Service of Investigation. All those departments will be united with one common notion: the bodies for the protection of public law and order.

Russian central authorities will still be in charge of the struggle with criminality, whereas local authorities will gain the absolute control over law and order in the streets of Russian cities and settlements. City mayors will have additional opportunities to use the money. The National Guards will deal with internal armed conflicts and mass disorders. The National Guards will now be the name for Russian internal troops.

The final variant of the Russian army reform will be approved by June 1, 2003. The Russian army is supposed to have the units of permanent readiness. Those units will be established on contractual basis, up to 166 thousand people in total. If the new Russian army will be capable of executing battle goals, one might erect a monument in honor of the Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Ivanov.

For the time being, Sergey Ivanov stands up for secret articles of the budget, and complains of the lack of funds for the rearmament of the army. “We are especially concerned about the quality of the defense technology, as well as about the perspectives for the rearmament of the army and the navy. The assigned money that we receive today will be enough for purchasing single items of defense technology,” said the minister in Moscow Tuesday. Sergey Ivanov pointed out that the federal rearmament program stipulates for mass purchasing of defense technology only after 2010. Until this year, the program is presumably aimed at maintaining the home defense complex and for conducting scientific, research and designing works.

The head of the state, Vladimir Putin was present at the session that was devoted to the reforms in the Russian army system. The Russian president set out his concern about the issue of inner relations in the army, particularly about the oppression of lower ranks on the part of top ranks. The president entrusted the Defense Ministry to establish a special control regarding the issue of oppression in the army. Pursuant to unofficial information, about four thousand soldiers have died in the Russian army over recent three or four years over oppression and criminal activities. It deems that the president has been informed about this sad statistics, if he decided to talk about this issue.

Vladimir Putin entrusted the ministry to pay special attention to the issue of crimes in the army. The head of the state stressed out that priority should be given to the crimes, which are connected with the use of weapons. Army protects its criminals, and the major reason for that is the fact that the army is still a closed part of the society. Testimonial evidence of violence is basically either ignored or concealed by military prosecutors. As a result, no charges are brought. A court martial presumably brings down very soft sentences on criminals. Elderly military men and officers are usually acquitted.

What can be expected from the recruits, who live altogether in cramped barracks? According to the information from the Russian Army Headquarters, 14% of recruits were convicted or registered in police records for various transgressions. Eight percent of recruits are drug addicts, twelve percent of them take alcohol on regular basis. It is also worth mentioning that every sixth Russian boy is undernourished, eight thousand soldiers are usually sent back to their homes after three months of service.

This statistics is rather sad. Yet, it does not give a complete picture of the situation in the Russian army. There are about five percent of healthy young men amid Russian recruits. About 60% of them are sick.

Most likely, this situation is not an eye-opener, at least for Russian people. The president said that one should look into the matter. Let’s hope that they will.

Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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