Russia: June 23, 2002


The Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone mixed peacekeeping force headquarters found their eight armed contract-servicemen deserters on the 19th, near the South Ossetian city of Tskhinvali. The seven contract-service junior sergeants and a private had been posted to the region six weeks earlier. Contract-servicemen are paid a lot more money than conscripts for serving in dangerous areas. Taking two assault rifles, a light machinegun, and grenades, the deserters were sought for almost 24 hours by Russian military personnel and the Georgian police; roads were closed and helicopters sent up.

The reason they had abandoned their observation post turned out to be ridiculous, based on the claim that their platoon commander badgered them night and day, picking on them for no reason. These peacekeepers decided to take their petition to the battalion commander in Tskhinvali. However, they lost their way and were very happy when they ran into a search team.

Considering the time and resources wasted, the deserters punishment wasn't harsh. According to Colonel General Nikolay Kormiltsev, commander in chief of ground forces, all eight will be sent home and their contracts will be annulled. The platoon commander will be strictly punished for poor leadership, while the helicopter fuel used up in the search will be written off to unplanned exercises. 

The Russian armed forces have had about 10 desertion incidents this June alone and the Kremlin will surely issue a new directive, but the problem continues. Border Guard Private Oleg Shalamov went AWOL from a helicopter base in Russia's Far East town of Blagoveshchensk on 20 June. He took a Kalashnikov assault rifle and ammunition for it, so a reserve border team as well as the police went looking for the deserter. - Adam Geibel

In Chechnya, rebels killed a Chechen major of police. As part of a campaign to terrorize Chechens who support Russia, the rebels have killed at least 82 Chechen policemen so far this year. 


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