I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Winston Churchill

Oct 20, 2008

Russians killed in Ingushetia

By Charles Clover in Moscow

Published: October 20 2008 03:00 | Last updated: October 20 2008 03:00

Three Russian soldiers were killed and as many as 10 were injured when rebels ambushed a military convoy in Ingushetia, one of the worst incidents so far in an increasingly brutal conflict between the central Russian government and Islamist militants in the region.

Up to 10 militants attacked a convoy of vehiclesin a forest, said Pavel Belyakov, Ingushetia's deputy prosecutor. Attacks against Russian government forces in the region, which is part of the Russian federation, have become more organised and more frequent since the conflict with Georgia in August.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for yesterday's raid, the worst since September 17, when four government troops died in a similar ambush. A Chechen rebel website, kavkazcenter.com, identified the attackers as mujahedeen, or Islamic holy warriors, and claimed the Russian death toll was closer to 50. Russia's interior ministry denied this.

The growing conflict in Ingushetia comes as Russia's military has begun a restructuring, in the wake of the Georgia conflict, to transform itself into a lighter and more agile force.

While the Russian campaign was successful in Georgia, the war exposed a lack of modern equipment, and a top-heavy military bureaucracy.

General Nikolai Makarov, head of Russia's general staff, said that military officers' pay would rise in the next three years as reforms reduced their number by about 50 per cent. Many senior military officers earn less than the national average wage of 16,000 roubles per month ($600, €450, £350). Gen Makarov told a television station that under the new rules, a lieutenant would earn at least 70,000 roubles per month within three years, making the profession's pay more competitive. Soon, he said, the available pool of recruits for the officer corps would be half of what it was in 2001, due to falling birth rates, and the higher salaries were necessary to attract talented people to serve.

The accompanying drastic cuts in the army, particularly the officer corps, have caused tensions between uniformed military and the civilian ministry of defence.

Russia's senior generals prefer the tactics of mass mobilisation and huge numbers of cheaper, mass-produced armaments to a less numerous, better equipped and more professional force. The move to reform the gigantic military also comes as the Kremlin seeks to heal the rift with the west that followed the war in Georgia.

The BBC yesterday reported that Sergei Ivanov, a deputy prime minister, had said that the Russian Black Sea fleet would pull out of its base in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol in 2017, when the lease on the base expires, if Kiev demanded it.

Tension over the base rose during the war with Georgia after Kiev sided with Tbilisi in the conflict.

source: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/39e721b4-9e40-11dd-bdde-000077b07658.html

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