Russian Army Faced Critics, But Did Well in Ossetia War - December, 2008


Russian Army Faced Critics, But Did Well in Ossetia War


December, 2008

The Russo-Georgian War in August of this year demonstrated a basic truth about the Russian army: it is a sledgehammer, not a rapier, and a fairly effective sledgehammer at that. The five-day conflict left few doubts that, when it came to high tech and training, Russia's fighting men are behind modern armed forces. Western experts routinely pointed out during the conflict how antiquated some parts of the Russian military are. However, the well-orchestrated, lightning invasion also made clear that the Kremlin's soldiers are more than capable of using ingenuity and overwhelming numbers to crush an opponent like the Georgian military. Even as experts in Brussels and Washington were repeating conventional wisdom about Russian military weaknesses, rapidly- advancing armoured forces like Russia's 58th Army were lancing into Georgia, and in high spirits as they systematically demolished Georgia's US-trained army. 'Join us, we have plenty to eat!' an ethnic Ingush trooper from Russia's 503rd Motor Rifle Regiment told a dpa reporter visiting a strongpoint without invitation: 'Rice, vegetables, and plenty of meat.'

A drab green ZiL lorry hauling hot food and bottles of greenish fizzy water rumbled through the sector, held by a Russian armoured reconnaissance company. Two tanker lorries followed, one with diesel for BMP fighting vehicles, the second with water, which was going fast in the 35-degree August heat. That scene of a combat unit supplying itself with little fuss jarred with reports from the Pentagon and US news agencies. According to the Western narrative, Moscow's armed forces were massive but shoddy, with vehicles breaking down repeatedly. Other purported problems included obsolete weapons, sloppy field commanders, primitive communications, and pilots incapable of low-level flight. But on a rise overlooking the highway to Tbilisi, under a Caucasian midday sun, Russian infantry hacked away at the rocky ground with picks and shovels. They were digging in, in positions well chosen to command the highway. Sentries were posted, tanks were camouflaged, junior officers were on the move, and anti-tank rockets were cached at 500- metre intervals by the blacktop.

Despite an absence of GPS, or even topographical maps for anyone but the commanding captain, the reconnaissance company of 503rd Motor Rifle Regiment gave no appearance of the incompetence highlighted by the pundits back in the NATO countries. Nonetheless, even after the war ended, criticism of the Russian army's performance came thick and fast. A spokesman from Janes Defence International Weekly, a leading arms publication, pointing out to the Wall Street Journal that the Russian tanks operating in South Ossetia lacked modern steel lattice armor. Additionally, the publication noted, some of the tanks were more than twenty years' old. Such analysis failed to impress the Russian rank-and-file. 'She (our tank) got us here from Chechnya, we love her, and she's going to get us home too,' boasted a sergeant commanding a T-62 tank, according to him one of the oldest tanks in all of 19th Motor Rifle Division. 'She's good enough to fight Georgians ... and in any case, there is more to war than equipment.'

The Russian army also displayed a dangerous weakness in communications, with a general resorting to use of a journalist's satellite phone in an attempt to locate his troops, in an incident widely reported in Russian and Western media. However, Russian troopers and junior officers appeared unfazed by communications problems, employing captured Georgian mobile telephones and military radios. And, just like their Red Army forefathers, they sent important messages by motorcycle or jeep courier. Perhaps the worst problem experienced by the Russians in the war was Georgia's surprisingly effective air defence, which knocked down between four and 16 Russian planes, depending on which side one believes. But the Grakali railroad bridge - a key transport link between Georgia's capital and the coast - is good proof the Russians weren't stymied. Forced to pull back their air force, and still wanting to knock down the bridge, the Russians sent a platoon of combat engineers, who dropped the span with high explosives.

The Russians dealt with a critical Georgian air defence radar, located on a mountain overlooking the Tbilisi airport, using similarly rough-and-ready means. Confounded in repeated attempts to hit the radar with a daytime surgical strike, the Russian air force unloaded a single massive bomb in the middle of the night, leveling the radar and a substantial portion of the hilltop. Critics of the Russian military also have been mostly silent on a whole host of skillful moves by the Kremlin, which made the five-day war a hands-down Russian success. Among those moves was a complicated surprise amphibious landing on Georgia's sea coast that went off without a hitch and the lightning capture of the strategically critical Kodori Gorge by heliborne infantry deep in Georgia's mountains.

Russian electronic jamming forced Georgia's officers to abandon their radios and issue orders by mobile phone, which were then intercepted by Russian intelligence. In a striking psychological move, Russia sent Chechen mercenaries - feared for ruthlessness throughout the Caucasus - as shock troops against Georgian positions. Georgian morale crumbled, and in some cases Georgian troops literally ran rather than face the Chechens. 'We are here to teach people a lesson,' a xxxxy Russian motor rifle lieutenant said. 'Russia is no longer on her knees.'

Source: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/ne...in_Ossetia_war


Russia Accuses Foreign Nationals in Georgia War
 


Russian investigators on Tuesday charged that volunteers from the United States and a number of other countries fought on the side of Georgia in its war against Russia. Russian news agencies reported that Aleksandr Bastrykin, chairman of an investigative committee with the Russian prosecutor's office, said the mercenaries included nationals of the U.S., Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Turkey. Russian officials have previously accused the U.S. and Ukraine of sending servicemen to take part in the fighting in August — claims both countries have denied. The war over the separatist province of South Ossetia devastated Georgia, crippled its military, destroyed much of the key infrastructure and uprooted more than 160,000 people.

The Kremlin recognized South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent, drawing strong condemnation from the West. Representatives of Georgia's Defense Ministry were not immediately available to comment on the accusations that they recruited foreign volunteers during the fighting. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow declined immediate comment. A spokesman for Ukraine's Defense Ministry was not immediately available and UNA-UNSO, the Ukrainian nationalist organization whose members Bastrykin accused of taking part in the fighting, did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. In Prague, Czech Defense Ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek said that no member of the Czech national army took part in the fighting and that authorities were not aware of any volunteers participating either. Authorities in Turkey could not be immediately reached for comment.

Bastrykin also released what he said were final figures for civilian deaths in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, saying that 162 residents were killed and more than 5,000 people were considered to be "victims" of the war; he did not elaborate on the concept. Previously Bastrykin's committee had said 133 civilians were killed. The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said in September that fewer than 100 civilians were killed. Bastrykin also said 48 Russian servicemen, including 10 peacekeepers, were killed in the fighting, reducing the death toll from the previously announced figure of 64. Bastrykin also renewed accusations that the Georgian military had committed acts of genocide against South Ossetians in the war.

Both sides have accused each other of that crime, and Georgian authorities were quick to respond. "The Russians should themselves answer for the ethnic cleansing they've committed, which is a proven fact," said Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili. Human Rights Watch and the Georgian government have said Ossetian militias were involved in systematic persecution of ethnic Georgian civilians in South Ossetia following the war. Russia says it invaded South Ossetia and then moved deep into Georgia proper to protect Russian passport-holders and peacekeepers after Tbilisi launched an assault on the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali. Georgia blames Russia for the war, saying it was forced to act by growing Russian support for South Ossetia and a buildup of troops around the region.

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/...zGkkAD958EFHO0

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