Russia: October 17, 2001



Take The Last Train To Grozny And I'll Meet You At The Station- Russian forces conducted a regularly-scheduled relief-in-place of Airborne Assault Troop [VDV] units across Chechnya in September and October 2001. Over 500 men of the 119th Airborne Regiment (led by Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Lebedev) were replaced by elements of the 51st and 137th Airborne Regiments. The first train with Colonel Viktor Astopov's 51st Regiment detachment left Tula in late September. On 1 October, around 300 paratroopers from the 137th Regiment (led by Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Bezrukov) left Ryazan for the Grozny suburb of Khankala.

All three regiments belonged to Major General Gennady Savilov's 106th Airborne Division. The 119th, which had operated in Chechnya for six months, went home in two trains. The first, with about 400 paratroopers, left on the night of 3 October with the second following later that week. They arrived at the Moscow region town of Naro-Fominsk on the night of 9 October.

The 104th Airborne Regiment (led by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Kardychkin) was replaced by over 400 men of the 234th Airborne Regiment (led by Hero-of-Russia award-winner Lieutenant Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky). Both units are part of the 76th Airborne Division. The 234th's first train left the Cherekha terminal near Pskov for Chechnya overnight 9/10 and was followed by a second train on 10/11 October. 

Another rotation in the 7th Airborne Division saw 500 men from the 108th Airborne Regiment (led by Colonel Vladimir Tretyak) replaced with units of the 247th Airborne Assault Regiment (led by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Medvedev). The 247th's train left Mozdok's terminal overnight on 11/12 October for Novorossiysk.

The rotation of paratroopers only involves personnel replacement (while leaving combat equipment and heavy ordnance on-site) ends on October 20. The Airborne Troops officially lost 287 KIA and over 560 WIA during the Second Chechnya War. The fresh units had received special three-month long training and were considered ready for combat missions in the North Caucasus.

At present, there are 2,500 Russian paratroopers in Chechnya; one battalion-size task force, two regiment-size task forces, an artillery battalion and a composite reconnaissance unit. They generally operate in southern Chechnya. - Adam Geibel