Several incidents have recently taken place within Russian security structures. On June 26, 2001, a sentry guard from the Defense Ministry’s Military Academy was attacked in the South-Eastern Administrative District of Moscow. Two criminals took the sentry’s automatic rifle and two loaded magazines and disappeared. The sentry, a cadet from the academy, was unhurt. The case is being investigated. On July 2, drunken seamen from a Northern Fleet station decided to “play German occupation” in the settlement of Pulozero, Murmansk Region. They left their posts, took an automatic rifle with them, and went to the settlement where they bought alcohol from local residents and drank with some local students. The seamen then beat the students and scared locals by firing shots into the air and shouting German words. The military prosecutor’s office has instigated legal proceedings.

On July 6, a 19-year-old sentry, Maxim Starostin, drafted in autumn 2000 by the Podolsk District Military Registration and Enlistment Office of the Moscow Region, left the Ozersk-based training center of the Kaliningrad Regional Department of the Federal Border Guard Service (FBS). According to the department’s press service, the serviceman left his post without official permission, taking his service AKM-47 assault rifle with him. Close to the settlement of Ryazanskoe, in the Ozerksky District, Mr. Starostin carjacked an Audi 1000 car but lost control of the vehicle near the settlement of Kodymka and crashed into a tree. When a local police squad found the private at the scene of the accident the latter opened fire. One of the police officers sustained a bruise of the thorax (a bullet hit his bullet-proof vest). As a result of the ensuing shootout, Private Starostin was wounded in the both legs and surrounded. The wounded man was delivered to Tchernyakhovsk city military hospital. A group of officers from the Kaliningrad FBS Department, led by a deputy chief of the department and including representatives of the FBS Military Prosecutor’s Office, has been assigned to the Ozersk training center to investigate the case. Legal proceedings have been instigated against Private Starostin.

The most severe incident took place on the night of July 7, when two soldiers from a North-Caucasian Military District unit shot six fellow servicemen dead. Privates Denis Smyshlaev and Yevgeny Samoilov from an engineer brigade opened automatic fire in a sentry box killing Lieutenant Pavel Inozemtsev, chief of the sentry team, his deputy Junior Sergeant Ivan Kopychev, and private sentries Mikhail Plitin, Alexander Samsonov, Andrei Noskov, and Fimos Delmukhametov. Private Alexei Asovsky sustained injuries, but has now recovered his health. Three other sentries were outside the sentry box at the time and were unhurt.

Having shot their colleagues dead, Privates Smyshlaev and Samoilov left the unit along with firearms and ammunition (an automatic pistol, two AK-47 assault rifles, and approximately 1,000 live rounds). However, at approximately 7:00 local time next morning they were detained by a special team from the Interior Ministry.

According to the initial results of the investigation, the deserters had been planning for some time to capture firearms and ammunition from their fellow servicemen. After the shooting in the sentry box, the privates flagged down a vehicle and forced the driver at gunpoint to drive towards Moscow, the native city of Mr. Samoilov, who had previous convictions. Apparently, it was the unprecedented boldness of the crime that prompted the Defense Ministry to urgently send a special commission led by Lieutenant General Aleksander Morozov, Chief of the Land Forces main staff, to the North-Caucasian Military District.

The commission of six generals and officers was initially planned to be personally headed by Colonel General Nikolai Kormiltsev, Deputy Defense Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Land forces, but later Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov decided to replace Mr. Kormiltsev with the chief of the troops’ general staff who is directly in charge of organization of subordinate troops’ service.

Noteworthy comments have been issued by military representatives. The General Staff has urgently disproved press reports that the deserters took part in the Chechen campaign (a fact that was allegedly the cause of their bloody crime). In reality, according to representatives of the General Staff, the reasons for the crime in question are to be found in the low morale of modern draftees.

Military chiefs are concerned about the fact that draftees’ physical, social, psychological, and medical characteristics remain poor. Thus, of all of the conscripts who attended medical checkups during the past spring draft, only two-thirds were drafted and even those have health problems. Young men fit for military service with insignificant limitations account for approximately 50% of potential draftees. Mental disorders amount to 20.3% of all ailments preventing the military from drafting young men – the most widespread impediment to draft. Very often retarded people go to serve. It is little wonder, therefore, that cases such as the above are frequent in the Russian army.