Against the backdrop of the war in the East of Ukraine, in which Russia is directly involved, there are many media reports referring to the involvement of the “Wild Divisions” or “Kadyrov’s Brigades”. These descriptions are not completely accurate and I wish to make some clarifications.
The new structure of the Russian ground forces is based on brigades which are two or three times smaller than the old divisions. Brigades total approximately 3,500 personnel which are fully manned in accordance with wartime requirements. Brigades have the ability to act quickly and flexibly both as separate combat units and through the so-called BTGs (Battalion Tactical Groups) which are reinforced by various support units.
There are about 10 infantry brigades deployed to the Northern Caucasus (Southern Military District of the Russian Federation), most of them are deployed to Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia and partially to Ingushetia. The so-called “national battalions” (or companies in some places) were formed as part of those motorized rifle brigades in these unstable regions of the Russian Northern Caucasus. These battalions consist of 350 personnel on average (approximately 100 personnel for companies). While the national battalions and companies are structurally included into those brigades, they unofficially have a status of Special Forces aimed at diversionary and reconnaissance activity. They report to the Head of District Intelligence, a representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU GSh).
Each such battalion (or company) is staffed mainly by local resident on contract service. For example, in Chechnya the battalions are staffed mostly by separatists who were later granted amnesty. These fighters served in pro-Russian Chechen battalions such as “Vostok” (“Dadyrovtsi” and “Yamadaevtsi”, named after the leaders, Kadyrov and Yamadaev). After disbandment of these battalions they were transferred to other units including national battalions of the Southern Military District. We should separately mention the so-called “Ossetian national battalion” which is structurally included into the 4th Military Base deployed to the occupied region of Samachablo (the so-called “South Ossetia”) of Georgia. It is mainly composed of the local South-Ossetian separatists.
Among the military units where there are Caucasian national divisions, it is difficult to maintain discipline at the appropriate level, because there is rampant drug abuse, extortion, theft, physical abuse of their colleagues (mostly all attacks are against soldiers of Slavic origin). In order to address this problem the Russian Command has sought to introduce into these units troops from different ethnic minorities, such as Tuvinians, Bashkirs and Kalmyks.
Of course, the most capable national units have combat experience gained in the so-called “anti-terrorism” operations in the Caucasus, but these units do not have high morale. The main motivation of the Caucasian troops for service in the Russian army is of course the high earnings, with contract salaries averaging about $1,500 with other combat bonuses.
Having been in the East of Ukraine for a considerable period now, and having suffered heavy losses, many Chechens and Dagestanis, have begun to lose motivation for their task. Many refuse to go to the new “business trip” to Ukraine, and decide break their contract. The remaining doubters are under strong psychological pressure and intimidation (indirectly confirmed in this video).
List/parts of the national battalions, which were mentioned in the context of recent events in Ukraine:
- 136th Motorized Brigade of Dagestan, Botlih. The battalion comprises mostly of troops of Dagestanis, Ossetians, Kabardins, and Asian ethnicity.
- 18th Motorized Brigade of Chechnya, Khankala/Kalinovskaya. The battalion in the vast majority comprised of local Chechens, Dagestanis, and Kabardian.
- 17th Motorized Brigade in Chechnya, Shali. National composition of the battalion is Dagestanis, Chechens, Ossetians, Kabardins, and Asians.
- 8th Mountain Brigade (Mountain) in Chechnya, Borzoi. The national unit of mixed composition, Dagestanis, Chechens, Ossetians, Kabardins, and Asians.
- 19th Motorized Brigade (Northern Ossety – Alania, Vladikavkaz / Ingushetia, Troitskaya). The battalion is stationed in Ingushetia with the 291st Artillery Brigade. The vast majority of the Brigade are local Ingush, but there are also Dagestanis, Kabardins, and Asians.
- 4th Russian Military Base (Samachablo (the so-called “South Ossetia”), Tskhinvali / Dzhava), staffed by local Kudar Ossetians and Ossetian residents of North Ossetia and Alania in the Russian Federation.
The total number of personnel of the so called “national units” is approximately 1,000-1,500 contract soldiers. Those soldiers are engaged in Battalion Tactical Groups from specific military units by companies (subject to rotations).
Concluding Comment: The information is based on my observations of the Media, other available sources, as well as with information gathered from my personal contacts. This article does not claim to be 100% complete in terms of the units described and I will readily accept any reasonable additions and constructive comments. Pictures included in the article do not reflect any particular unit and are for illustrative purposes.
Copyright: You are welcome to copy this article, or parts thereof to you media, but strictly on the basis of acknowledgement and/or referencing of the author and the publishing source. Copyright is reserved and distortions of the material are not acceptable.
August 29, 2014
Edited by Larry Field