Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 169

At least two Russian servicemen were killed on September 8 when the warhead to a short-range air-defense missile exploded at a military base near Komsomolsk-na-Amure in the Russian Far East. While reports of the incident varied, Izvestiya said that the servicemen had stolen the warhead from the unit’s ammunition dump, and blew themselves up while trying to extract precious metals from within the warhead. The newspaper, which blamed poor security for the tragedy, also observed that thefts of military equipment, weaponry, and explosives has grown to epidemic proportions in the Far East. (Izvestiya, September 11)

The explosion in Komsomolsk-na-Amure prompted another Russian daily yesterday to review a series of deadly incidents that have swept through the armed forces in the past two weeks alone. On August 31, for example, four servicemen and two civilian companions were killed when they were swept by high winds into the ocean while parachuting during an airshow near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. On the same day a drunken lieutenant, armed with two stolen submachine guns, shot to death three servicemen in the village of Zhuklino in the Moscow Military District. A subsequent investigation revealed that the unit commanders were derelict and prone to bouts of drinking. Less than a week later, on September 4, an Mi-8 military transport helicopter crashed about 100 miles north of Chita, killing all six people on board. The victims included Lt. Gen. Dmitry Kutsekon, commander of the 32nd Air Force Army and Maj. Gen. Boris Batura, the army’s chief of staff. Investigators believe an explosion or fire on board may have caused the accident. Two days later, an Su-27 fighter crashed in Karelia, leaving the crew hospitalized.

The newspaper put the incidents into the broader perspective of an army unraveling from the effects of growing corruption, accompanied by sharply deteriorating living conditions, professional standards, and morale. It quotes General Staff statistics showing a steep rise in suicides among service personnel; in Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces and Navy suicides now reportedly account for over 50 percent of all non-combat deaths. As the newspaper intimates, these developments reflect an obvious drop in combat effectiveness and, of at least equal importance, seem to portend a continued weakening both of the military command’s control over its troops and of the political leadership’s control over the nation’s armed forces. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 11)

Pressure to Move Forward on Indian-Russian Aircraft Deal.