Russia: October 31, 1999


Russia is negotiating with North Korea to revise their decades old mutual defense treaty. The Russians do not want to be obliged to come to North Korea's aid if North Korean gets involved in another war. Russia established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1990 and has since developed lucrative trade relations with the south. The North Koreans don't like this.

October 31; In a rare display of solidarity, Russian President Yeltsin and the rancorous Duma have reached a joint agreement on their opposition to the US anti-missile system. Denouncing the National Missile Defense system in the strongest terms, Russia said that the US was entirely responsible for the negative impacts of undermining the ABM Treaty.--Stephen V Cole

October 31; Russia wants to replace the ancient Su-17 strike planes based in the Crimea with more modern Su-24s, but the Ukrainians are stalling the move by insisting on inspecting the planes to ensure that they are no longer capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Russia charges that the nuclear issue is a smokescreen to avoid allowing it to send the planes to the region.--Stephen V Cole

October 31; Russia has spent most of its defense procurement funds for the last five years on modernizing the strategic missile arsenal. There has, for all practical purposes, been no spending on new ground combat weapons since 1994. This is, perhaps, because the Defense Ministry is led by General Sergeyev, once head of the Strategic Rocket Forces. This has left the ground forces in serious trouble as they face their new campaign in Chechnya.--Stephen V Cole

October 30; The Red Cross protested when Russian aircraft fired on a Red Cross convoy near Grozny. The Russians said they fired after they were first fired upon. The Russians expect that the Chechens would use the Red Cross symbol to protect their troops. The number of Chechen refugees is approaching 200,000. Russian warplanes continued to bomb Grozny day and night.

October 29;  Russia's navy is in such sad shape that only four of their fifty nuclear subs are combat ready. Legislators mentioned this during a debate on allocating $29.2 million to make repairs on 24 of the non-operational subs.

October 29; Commanders of some Russian Army units are so desperate for cash that they are renting out hundreds of troops as laborers to local companies. The money is then used to support the rest of the unit and pay salaries. Some of the troops have complained about this practice, but most have found it to be just another facet of Russian life and treat the practice with an attitude that could be described as "What else is new?" Problems arose, however, when units in the Caucasus did this. Chechen rebels (before the Russian invasion) found the labor detachments to be the perfect place to pick up a few Russian prisoners who could be held hostage, exchanged for ransom, or simply tortured to death. The situation came to the attention of authorities when some officers actually began selling their more troublesome soldiers to the Chechens directly, avoiding the bother of having them kidnapped.--Stephen V Cole

October 29; Russia has declared that the priority in its next defense budget will shift to replacing the spy satellite fleet. Russia has 130 spacecraft in orbit, of which about 80 are military. About half of these no longer work, and at least half of the rest are beyond their design lifetimes. Many of these show degraded performance, and loss of some capability on one or more satellites is all but a weekly event. Only one Russian satellite can provide photos of Chechnya, and it cannot maintain a real-time datalink with the ground commanders, meaning that the most recent photos available to front line troops are those that were just flown in from satellite control centers inside Russia (which may have been hours old when downloaded).--Stephen V Cole

October 28;  Russia reports that 80 percent of the escape routes from Grozny are cut and in another week or so, the city will be totally surrounded. Russian troops are now within ten kilometers of the city. In the last 24 hours, over a hundred warplane and (helicopter) gunship sorties were flown against targets in Grozny. Russia is using it's Mo-24 gunship aggressively, indicating that the Russians feel the Chechens do not have much anti-aircraft capability left. Apparently the Russians are using long range rockets and cruise missiles against bunkers and headquarters. 

October 28; The Czech Republic is receiving $11.1 million in aircraft spare parts from Russia as part of its debt payments.--Stephen V Cole

October 27; Russia opening five roads for the nearly 200,000 Chechen refugees fleeing the fighting. Two roads will lead to Dagestan, one to Ingushetia, one to North Ossetia and one Stavropol. The refugees have good reason to flee, with over a hundred civilians being killed or wounded each day. Russian artillery hits Grozny and villages on the outskirts daily, and at night. Groups of armed Chechens barricade themselves in villages and force the Russians to blast them out. The Russians, not willing to take the kind of casualties they suffered during the 1993-96 Chechen war, now methodically surround defended villages, and then take them apart house by house with artillery and tank fire. Russian infantry rush into the ruins and finish off any survivors, or take an occasional prisoner for interrogation. The Russians may have underestimated the Chechens in 1993, but they don't now. Winter has begun in the Caucasus, and it's a miserable kind of war, with few prisoners taken by either side. 




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