Kremlin's stronghold, elite unit of Boris Yeltsin's commandos, abolished

Historians and present-day politicians differ in their opinions about the role of the army in the storming of the White House

The renowned regiment of Russian commandos, who stormed the White House in Moscow during the political crisis in October of 1993, has stopped its existence. The regiment, which was considered the Commander-in-Chief's reserve to liquidate massive uprisings in Russia's capital, is being liquidated.

The abolishment of the permanently Kremlin-loyal group of commandos is explained with changing sentiments in the army: servicemen of Russian elite troops are concerned about the process of the army reform and their financial well-being. 

The banner of the above-mentioned group, known as the 119th regiment, was handed over to the special reconnaissance regiment of the Russian Airborne Troops on Saturday. Ninety percent of officers and 100 percent of servicemen of the Kremlin regiment are to join other units and formations of the Russian Airborne Troops.

It is noteworthy that the decision to disband the elite regiment was made by the General Staff – not by the president, or the defense minister of Russia. The head of state has repeatedly emphasized in his statements that Airborne Troops, the elite troops of the Russian Armed Forces, will exist and function in Russia always. Commandos executed important military and political tasks during post-Soviet years of impetuous reforms in Russia. Soldiers of the 119 regiment were the first to break into the opposition-occupied House of the Russian Government on 4 October 1993.

Historians and present-day politicians differ in their opinions about the role of the army in the storming of the White House. However, President Boris Yeltsin issued an order to confer the Hero of Russia on seven soldiers of the group (five of them were decorated posthumously). The commandos conducted courageous battles in Chechnya during the campaign of 1995-1996, in Dagestan in 1999-2003 and in Chechnya again.

A source close to the Russian prime minister told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the head of the Russian government is supposedly unaware of the current reduction in the airborne troops. “These are elite troops, which means that the prime minister and the Kremlin must be informed about their problems. What if an uprising occurs in Moscow, who is going to be responsible for defense? There was such experience before, in 1991 and 1993, when the forces of the Defense Ministry were not enough to assist the Moscow police,” the source said.

An officer of the Airborne Troops Command told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the decision to cut the troops was so far justifiable. “All divisions of airborne troops are composed of three regiments in Russia. The division, in which the disbanded group was included, was made of four regiments. This is the reason why the regiment has been abolished,” the officer said. The military man confirmed that many officers of the regiments were rather concerned about their well-being against the background of the elimination of social benefits for military men.

”The officers of the commando group and their family members are concerned about the state-run politics indeed, - Colonel General Leonid Ivashov said. – “I have firsthand information on the matter. However, up to 99 percent of Russian military men and patriotic forces of Russia share oppositionist sentiments towards the Russian administration. It goes without saying that it should not become the reason to cut most efficient army formations. To crown it all, Moscow signs agreements with NATO, which entitle the alliance to deploy its troops on our territory. It brings up an idea that it will be NATO, not Russian troops defending the ruling regime one day,” Leonid Ivashov said.

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Author`s name Olga Savka