FAREWELL, SUMATRA!

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Russia has withdrawn the personnel from its military hospital, which provided medical aid to the population of the country damaged by the latest tsunami, from Sumatra (Indonesia). Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel met the servicemen in the Koltsovo airport in Yekaterinburg on February 21. The medical unit of the Trans-Volga-Ural military district was one of the most professional foreign medical units in Sumatra. On one hand, the presence of the unit in the disaster zone was very short. On the other hand, observers state that medical aid provided by the unit was highly professional. This is why it is not ruled out that the withdrawal of Russian military practitioners from Indonesia is linked with the unstable military-political situation in the region. The government’s forces countered armed units of the separatists before the tsunami in this region. Advanced democracies preferred to send financial aid to Sumatra. Russia sent the military medical unit. Australian and German humanitarian military hospitals were deployed in more placid regions. Some sources say that they also intend to return home.

The mobile hospital of the Trans-Volga-Ural military district was sent to Sumatra during Christmas holidays. As is known, relocation of the hospital happened after the Russian president held a telephone talk with the Indonesian president. Indonesian officials appreciated Russian doctors’ help despite the fact that the Western media reproached Russia for reacting to the disaster late. The Indonesian defense minister sent a telegram to his Russian counterpart and thanked him for deploying the field hospital.

Major-General Bambang Darmono, head of the coordinating board for the rescue operation, noted at the ceremony of departure of the Russian doctors that, “the Russian hospital worked independently and did not create additional problems to local government bodies, which were busy with other tasks”. According to him, the Russian doctors won the hearts of local residents. The general stated, “At first the hospital received ten to 15 patients a day. At present 200 to 300, people come every day. This is the best evidence of high professionalism of your military practitioners.” In all, the military doctors examined over 30,000 residents of Indonesia from January 10 to February 18. The Russian Defense Ministry told WPS that the military hospital left its hardware in Indonesia. Indonesian specialists were instructed how to use Russian medical hardware.

The hospital was handed over to Indonesia along with two operating rooms, laboratories, medical hardware and medications. Indonesia also received diesel generators, a water-purifying system, refrigerators, 19 off-road vehicles, a mobile laboratory and a mobile X-ray. The total cost of the hospital is over $2 million. The total humanitarian and medical aid to the country reached $30 million.

Meanwhile, some politicians thought that sending the Russian military hospital to Sumatra was an illegitimate decision. For instance, Colonel-General Valery Manilov, advisor to the head of the Federation Council and former first deputy chief of the General Staff, told WPS that the government needed the Federation Council’s approval to send the contingent to Indonesia. Victor Zavarzin, head of the Duma defense committee, stated in an interview, “In accordance with the Russian Constitution, the Federal Council must approve decisions to send Russian military contingents abroad. This happened when the Russian leadership decided to send Russian servicemen to the Trans-Dniester territory, Tajjikistan, Abkhazia and Kosovo. The medical unit of the Trans-Volga-Ural military district, which was sent to Sumatra, is not a military contingent. I would like to note that the Russian representatives were not armed. This was Russia’s response to Indonesia’s request to provide aid.” In other words, the Russian leadership does not consider the military hospital as a military contingent. This is very strange. Every serviceman must have weapons. It should be noted that the Russian servicemen were stationed in the zone of conflict between the government forces and the opposition. The Russian doctors needed weapons for self-defense. Russia is lucky that no one suffered. However, the unit could have suffered losses… If this had happened the issue of legitimacy of the military medical unit’s presence in this country would become very topical.

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