Liquidation of disciplinary battalions: is this good or bad?

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Reforms aimed at the creation of a new infrastructure of military garrisons were started in the Russian army. Guardhouses are implemented again. The military order will be maintained by military commandant’s offices. The overall strength of the Armed Forces and other troops will not be increased. Commandant’s offices and guardhouses will be created on the basis of authorized personnel of the disciplinary battalions to be disbanded by the end of 2007. It is possible to draw these conclusions on the basis of information presented recently by the Defense Ministry. According to Lieutenant General Alexander Lukin, director of the main department of combat training and service of troops of the Armed Forces: “it is planned to create regular military commandant’s offices of three ranks.” Lukin stresses that the commandant’s offices of the first rank will have authorized strength larger than 30 servicemen and will be usually located in the places of deployment of the staffs of the military districts.

Overall, authorized personnel of the new commandant’s offices and guardhouses will evidently include 1,231 servicemen. According to a representative of the Defense Ministry, this is the overall strength of the permanent personnel of disciplinary battalions. The tasks of the garrison commandant’s offices will include the maintenance of order in subordinated troops, as well as the search and detention of servicemen who commit crimes. Regular military commandant’s officers will be formed for all security agencies where there is military service. According to Lukin, guardhouses will be at the military commandant’s offices.

Disciplinary battalions were used for combating army criminals up to the present. Now conscript soldiers, whom the court has sentenced to imprisonment for up to three years, serve in disciplinary battalions. The main advantage of a disciplinary battalion over a prison is that in the future, soldiers sent to a disciplinary battalion are considered to have no convictions in the documents. According to Lukin, henceforth, both military and civilians “will have a uniform criminal punishment for a committed crime.”

Is this good or bad? From the standpoint of humanism this is bad. Henceforth, military courts will send all wrongdoers to prisons together with criminals instead of disciplinary battalions. However, there may be different breaches, especially in the army.

Alexander Pikaev, director of the department of disarmament and conflict resolving of the institute of international economy and international relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, asks: “Many soldiers are sent to disciplinary battalions for deserting. They desert due to various reasons, including hazing. For deserting a person is sent not to a disciplinary battalion, but to prison. The punishment is inadequate. Will this person be there on common terms with criminals?” It is difficult to disagree with him.

Meanwhile, there is a rational aspect in the new system of military garrisons. First, it will be possible to send a wrongdoer to a guardhouse. According to the Defense Ministry, by 2010 it is planned to build 143 garrison guardhouses complying with all modern Russian and European legal norms. The new guardhouses will be much different from the guardhouses that existed in the Soviet army. For example, they will have an area increased from 2 to 4 square meters per person. Wooden beds will be replaced with normal beds with bed sheets. Guardhouses will receive meeting rooms, etc.

Second, military commandant’s offices are established for combating wrongdoers. Territorial and local garrisons will be organized and military commandant’s offices renovated according to new authorized strength will occupy the central space. What is the most interesting, however, is that these novelties will be implemented not by government resolutions, but on the basis of the draft regulations of garrison and sentinel service of the Russian Armed Forces.

The military propose the division of Russia into 70 territorial and 179 local garrisons. According to the Defense Ministry, there are currently 533 military garrisons in the Defense Ministry. This means that they will be enlarged. Along with this, local garrisons will have to be part of territorial garrisons. However, all of them will have an inter-branch status, which means that demands and orders of a commander of a military garrison and a military commandant will be applicable not only to servicemen of the Armed Forces but also to representatives of other security agencies of the country (servicemen of Interior Forces, border guards forces of the Federal Security Service, Emergency Situations Ministry, etc).

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