Practice of Surprise Military Drills Continues

5Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an urgent military drill to test the combat readiness of the armed forces across western and central Russia. The drill included troops dealing with mock security and terrorist threats.

4“The drills are not connected with events in Ukraine at all,” Sergey Shoigu, Russia’s Defense Minister, told journalists Wednesday.

2As part of the test, several drills will be held on Russian borders with other countries, including with Ukraine. The main purpose of these drills is to check the combat readiness of the Russian armed forces, Shoigu said.

The surprise drill tested ground troops, Air Force, airborne troops and aerospace defense, according to Shoigu.

Putin ordered to “test combat readiness of troops in dealing with crisis situations that threaten the military security of the country, as well as with antiterrorist, sanitary and epidemiological, or technogenic situations,” Shoigu said.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said the exercises would be held in two stages – from February 27-28 and February 28 – March 3. More than 150,000 servicemen from various troop units will take part.

3Russia informed NATO of the military exercise thus fulfilling its obligations in the field of military transparency, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told journalists before a scheduled meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers.

“Yes, Russia has informed us about their military exercises,” Itar-tass reports, as Rasmussen stressed that Russia “lived up to all their obligations as regards transparency.”

1Moscow also notified the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of the military exercise, according to a senior NATO official.

While Western media was quick to connect the drill to the situation in Ukraine, such exercises were proposed by Putin as early as last September and followed massive 2013 drills.

In February, the Russian Army staged a surprise ‘combat readiness’ drill in central Russia for the first time in 20 years, which was followed by a Black Sea drill in March.

1An exercise testing aerospace defense and Air Force then took place in May, involving thousands of troops with hundreds of aircraft and vehicles.

In July, a massive military drill took place in the Eastern Command. Up to 160,000 troops, 1,000 tanks and armored vehicles, 130 aircraft and 70 vessels took part in the drill.

Following the 2013 exercises, President Putin, in his capacity as Russia’s Supreme Commander-in-Chief, announced that the practice of surprise drills will continue. A comprehensive inspection of Interior Ministry troops was also ordered.

Russia to Adopt Ratnik Gear This Summer

4The Russian military will adopt domestically designed “future soldier” gear this summer, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

1The adoption of the Ratnik gear into service has been repeatedly delayed due to uncertainty over the choice of small arms component, which is likely to include the new Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle. The equipment is currently in the final stages of field testing by Russian paratroopers.

5Developed as part of the soldier military equipment (BES) programme, Ratnik nicknamed “future soldier uniforms”comprises about 50 components, including firearms, body armor and optical, communication and navigation devices, as well as life support and power supply systems, and even knee and elbow pads.

Emphasis has been laid on the effective protection of a soldier on the battlefield, says the editor of the “Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kuryer”, or”Military-Industrial”, newspaper, member of the Public Council of the Russian Government’s Military-Industrial Commission, Mikhail Khodarenok. He added that “Ratnik” is better in every way than its predecessor, the battle suit “Barmitsa”, and obviously superior to its French analogue FELIN, which was originally to be considered as the main prototype. “Ratnik” is by far better in protecting servicemen from enemy small arms, as well as artillery shell and mine fragments.

3The multilayer hat can resist the hit of a bullet, fired from a distance of 5 meters to 10 meters. The overalls of the “Alutex” reinforced-fiber composite effectively protects against shell and grenade splinters, while the body armor vest, reinforced by ceramic and hybrid inserts, is effective against small arms, including armor-piercing weapons.

Available in summer and winter variants, the lightweight gear can be used by regular infantry, rocket launcher operators, machine gunners, drivers and scouts, and is claimed to provide protection against environmental threats from weapons of mass destruction and non-lethal weapons.

2The system is expected to feature at least ten modules for adaptability to varied combat environments, the news agency has earlier reported citing Russian Military-Industrial Commission first deputy chair, Yury Borisov.

New combat outfits for the armies of the world are not just updated outfits with elements of protection. These are real navigation systems that allow improving the interaction of the soldiers inside the unit thanks to communication systems and mapping. They also provide direct communication between the field and a tactical and even operational (brigade, division) level of command.

1Many other nations have similar future soldier equipment programs in progress, including the US Land Warrior, Germany’s IdZ, Britain’s FIST, Spain’s COMFUT, Sweden’s IMESS and France’s FELIN.

The Ratnik gear has been successfully tested by the Russian military.

According to Russian military sources, the “Ratnik” is better in every way than its predecessor, the battle suit “Barmitsa”, and obviously superior to its French analogue FELIN, which was originally to be considered as the main prototype.

 “Ratnik” weighs 20 kilograms, or 6 kilos less than its French analogue FELIN, and is fit for action in all conditions any time of the day.

Almost Half of Russians are for Conscript Soldiers

2Russians are divided about the use of conscript soldiers in the army, according to a survey published Tuesday.

1A total of 48 percent of Russians believe the military draft should remain a key source of manpower for the army, while 40 percent think only professional contract soldiers should serve, the poll by the independent Levada Center found.

In November 2013  Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the Russian army would never be fully contract: according to him, the large size of Russian Armed Forces will not allow the country to switch completely to such a system.

3Also according to the survey, more than half of respondents ( 54%) would prefer to see their family member served a year at the call , and 31% were in favor of two years service contract. In addition, almost half of Russians (48 percent) would like their children to serve in the army, while 33 percent would prefer to help their relatives dodge military service.

“Two-thirds of respondents (61 %) did not doubt the ability of the Russian army to protect the population in the event of a real threat ,” said the communiqué. While 24 % believe that the army can not now protect Russia in the case of a military threat, while another 15 % were undecided on this issue.

The poll of 1,603 respondents across 45 Russian regions was conducted on January 24-27 and has a margin of error of less than 3.4 percent.

4Russia is reforming its armed forces by shifting away from a largely inefficient body of conscripted soldiers toward a smaller professional army.

5Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last year that Russia’s military will have 500,000 soldiers serving on professional contracts within a decade. But he acknowledged that the armed forces will continue to rely on a mix of conscripts and contracted recruits for the foreseeable future.

The country has struggled in recent years to fulfil quotas for conscripts due to widespread draft dodging and a scarcity of eligible young men, following a collapse in the birth rate during the turbulent 1990s.

1The military needs to enroll about 300,000 men during each draft to keep the number of army personnel at the required level of 1 million.

According to official data, the current strength of the Russian Armed Forces is estimated at 774,500 personnel, including 220,000 officers and about 200,000 contracted soldiers.

All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are obliged by law to perform one year of military service. The shortest term of a military service contract is two years.

Russian Army Boosts Olympic Spirit

5Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu changed schedule for soldiers in all military districts of the country for the military men were able to watch broadcasts of the Olympic Games in Sochi.

2The Russian army announced that it was giving some troops an extra four hours off per day to watch television during the Olympic Games so they can root for the athletes.

“There have been changes made to the soldiers’ daily schedule to give them the opportunity to follow the Winter Olympic Games,” a statement on the Russian defence ministry’s website said.

For a month, soldiers based in the southern military district, which includes the Sochi region, will have an extra four hours per day to watch sports broadcasts on flat-screen televisions, it said.

4Even fighters who are not in the barracks can watch the competitions. “For soldiers in isolation from places of permanent deployment, automobile clubs PAC- 07, equipped with satellite TV sets will be organized”, the Defense Ministry reported.

There was a section devoted to the Olympics on the official website of the defense department. The calendar of competitions is published there, as well as information about all the athletes-soldiers.

There are 60 of them at the Olympic Games in Sochi: 33 soldiers , 28 of which are from sport troops, and 27 representatives of civil personnel of the Defense Ministry.

1Communal viewing of Olympic events during free time in the evening and after lunch is part of a month-long campaign with the slogan “Support our own!”

The idea is to “form a healthy community” and “strengthen camaraderie” among soldiers, the ministry said.

3The Russian army is one of the largest in the world and its ground forces consist of mainly young conscripts. The military has struggled for years to overcome an unappealing image of rife corruption, hazing, and outdated equipment.

1The opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics last night in Sochi, Russia had quite a number of memorable moments. But one of the most-talked about performances came from members of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs choir and their rendition of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” This is not the first time this choir has tackled this song, they posted a video of themselves singing the incredibly popular tune back in November. The world clearly needed a repeat performance, but sadly, this technically happened before the opening ceremony and was cut from the NBC live broadcast. Regardless, sing it loud and sing it proud (although half of these singers look as though they resent life), because this Grammy-winning track deserves all the love it can get.

The interior ministry has its own military troops, including conscripts.

Russian Army to Expand Training Program for University Students

1The Russian military is set to expand a training program for university students to provide an alternative to the country’s mandatory draft for young men, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said Monday.

2According to Pankov, male students will be able to opt out of the draft by completing 450 classroom hours of military studies over two years during their degree, and by attending a three-month training course before entering the reserves as a soldier or sergeant.

A similar program has been in place at the country’s 72 state universities with military departments since 2008, but the vast majority of male university students attend institutes that do not allow them to fulfill their service obligation during their studies.

University students can delay service while actively enrolled, but after graduating more than 60,000 young men are called up annually to perform their year of mandatory service.

3The reform will allow students to attend military training at other universities or at official Defense Ministry training centers.

Pankov said Tuesday that the program would also be made available to students enrolled at private colleges and universities.

The country has struggled in recent years to fulfill its target quotas for incoming conscripts due to widespread draft dodging and the scarcity of young men coming of age who were born when the birth rate collapsed during the turbulent 1990s.

Russian soldiers dressed in Red Army World War II uniforms prepa“The Ministry of Defense is making a big step to accommodate young men. Most importantly we are creating favorable conditions for fulfilling military service. Though it is more difficult for us than simply tracking down the draft dodgers,” Pankov said Tuesday.

The development of the new form of military training will begin this year, with the first students expected to begin studies by fall 2015.

5Russia has made a concerted effort in recent years to improve the image of and conditions in its armed forces after years of widespread reports of brutal hazing and other abuses among conscripts.

More than 244,000 men eligible for the draft managed to avoid being conscripted last year, according to General Staff statistics.

According to Pankov , work will also be continued to establish scientific squads. Now there are four of them, two of which have been working for almost a year. “By the end of this year there will be about 10 scientific squads, including a medical one,” said Secretary of State, who was quoted by ITAR-TASS. He said that medical scientific squad will be formed this spring. It is also planned to create a scientific squad of liberal arts.

Earlier media reports indicated that whose who want to take part in scientific squads would pass a serious competition because up to 60 people are planned to be chosen. In addition to desire, recruits need to meet certain requirements: be a member of the scientific Olympiads, wright scientific papers and have specific knowledge and skills.

1Nikolai Pankov also touched upon the formation and functioning of sports squads. He noted that dozens of young people from such squads entered the Russian Olympic team and today represent the country at the Olympic Games in Sochi.

The national team includes 33 soldiers, 27 athletes are civilian personnel of the Defense Ministry. 28 soldiers are draftees in sports squads. Among them is the skater Dmitry Solovyov, biathlete Alexander Loginov, snowboarder Nicholai Olyunin and others.

Russian Defense Ministry to Complete Formation of Special Cyber Security Force

1By 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry is planning to complete the formation of a special cyber security force designed to protect the army from computer attacks. The move is part of a federal program to modernize the country’s information security.

4The need for a cyber defense shield has been prompted by the Armed Forces’ transition to new types of weapons with a high share of digital components.

Today we face the lack of the specialists of this type: the number of cyber attacks on computer systems, apps and personal networks has reached a record level for the last 13 years. Some 1,5 million specialists have to be trained in order to overcome this problem.

Cyber securityTwelve people become victims of cyber attacks every minute. The number is continually growing. The data was proclaimed by Alexei Moshkov, head of the special technical actions bureau at the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation. According to him, last year the employees of the Administration “K” (department at the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation) prevented the theft of one milliard rubles (30 million dollars) from bank accounts of Russian people.

It should be noted that despite a cyber terrorists’ ideology, their real intensions are the same in 90% of cases. If we exclude hooliganism and so-called “practice” of young hackers, we can definitely say that all attacks are done in order to gain money, Alexander Vlasov, “Groteck” business development director, says.

5“If you look at the photographs of latest exercises in the Russian army, you’ll see dust-resistant and mud-resistant shockproof laptop computers, you’ll see command-and-control systems based on advanced computer technologies. There are so-called smart systems making it possible to coordinate the actions of even individual servicemen on the battlefield. Naturally, attempts will be made to penetrate those systems. There was an incident when the Iranians intercepted an American drone merely by hacking into its controls,” Yevgeny Yushchuk, an expert in competitive intelligence, said.

2All details of the future cyber defense force are top secret, of course. No expert can say what it will look like. Viktor Litovkin, Managing Editor of the Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye (Independent Military Observer) newspaper attempted to envisage its potential structure.

“It will have several levels of technical, cryptographic and radioelectronic security and lots of other systems duplicating each other and protecting strategic defense facilities. What are those facilities? Those are command centers, control centers for various types of weapons, including the Strategic Rocket Forces, aircraft and missile defense systems, army headquarters, and so on,” he said.

Certain cyber security elements have long existed in the Russian army, Litovkin said. Not a single data transmission channel of the Defense Ministry is connected to the Internet, which essentially reduces the cyber attack capabilities of potential enemies.

Russia Creates Broadened Military Police Force

2On January 29 Russia’s upper house of parliament passed a Kremlin-backed bill clarifying the broad role to be played by the fledgling military police, whose ranks will as a result have to swell substantially.

The draft legislation approved by the Federation Council stipulates that the military police are to be part of the armed forces and be tasked with maintaining law and order in the military. Its tasks will involve investigating crimes committed by or against military personnel, ensuring traffic safety in the army, as well as guarding military facilities.

4Military police will be empowered to use force, firearms, and special police and military equipment in line with relevant constitutional provisions, federal laws and military regulations. The police force could also be used in counterterrorism and antiriot operations, according to the bill.

The document designates the powers of the military police as an interrogation body of the Russian Armed Forces, ascertains the provisions of the Russian Criminal Executive Code and determines the police powers to enforce penalties imposed on military servicemen.

The military police is led by the Russian Defense Minister.
5Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law Tuesday to create a greatly broadened military police force to defend the country’s military bases and maintain order on them.

The law, patterned on foreign military practices, will task the force with protecting the rights of servicemen, investigating crimes committed by or against military personnel and with guarding and maintaining law and order at defense facilities.

Previously, the investigation of military crimes was under the jurisdiction of unit commanders.

3Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced in July 2011 that creation of a regulatory framework for establishment of the military police was being completed.

Creation of military police units had been mooted for years, mainly in the context of brutal hazing and bullying practices in the military. The draft legislation that has completed its passage through the legislature now, however, will endow the units with wider responsibility and powers.

1A small military police force was introduced in 2012 in an effort to combat the theft of defense property and widespread hazing in the armed forces, which still conscript young men for one year of obligatory service.

The new law will substantially increase the size and powers of the military police, including granting officers the right to use physical force and carry firearms.

Colonel Igor Sidorkevich, the head of the Military Police Directorate at the Defense Ministry, said last year that his force consisted of some 6,500 personnel.

Sidorkevich, who is reportedly a judo sparring partner of Putin, said duties under the draft legislation, especially counterterrorism and the protection of strategically important infrastructure, would require military police to staff more than 50,000 people.

Patriarch Kirill: Priesthood Has Positive Influence on Morale of Military Men

1The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said Monday that priests should be assigned staff positions within the ranks of the Interior Ministry’s troops following the success of a similar move in the military.

5“With God’s grace, the institute of military priesthood is being revived. According to the Defense Ministry it has a positive influence on the morale of the military,” Patriarch Kirill said.

The Russian church leader highlighted the importance of religious work among the Interior Ministry’s personnel who “face death carrying out anti-terrorism operations.”

The number of chaplains in the Russian Armed Forces has almost tripled in the past two years as part of the plan to restore full-scale military priesthood in Russia, which existed from the 18th century to the start of the Soviet era. The plan was announced in 2009 by Russia’s then-president, Dmitry Medvedev.

3The current number of military chaplains in the Russian Armed Forces stands at 80. Russia is planning to appoint about 400 military clergymen.

Two-thirds of the country’s servicemen consider themselves religious, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Some 83 percent are Orthodox Christians, about 8 percent are Muslims, and 9 percent follow other faiths.

However military priests can improve the spiritual climate in the Russian army , only if they are demanding to themselves and maintain high moral lifestyle, said the head of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for the interaction with the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies Archpriest Sergei Privalov.

“Being a confessor , especially a military confessor is not an easy task < … > your spiritual potential and purity of personal life, your self-discipline effects the success of pastoral participation in military team, ” said Privalov.

2According to him, one of the important tasks of a priest is to struggle against negative phenomena in military collectives. “The role of the priest, who is expected to work wonders when all the negative should disappear with his appearance, should be dominant,” Privalov said, adding that a priest may need the help of military psychologists, religious team and volunteers.

4He also called to do everything as soon as possible for “every believer to have the opportunity of prayer Deisis and participation in the sacraments of the Church.” According to Privalov, in this case we are talking about building churches and chapels, equipment of prayer rooms, opportunities for personnel to participate in religious services.

To date there are about 100 priests in the Armed Forces.