The current state of affairs in the Russian Armed Forces differs from images presented by the Kremlin propaganda machine. Against the background noise of publicity statements about growing military strength of the Russian Army and creation of military monsters, its new motorized rifle divisions and tank divisions, prepared for advance moves toward the West, hundreds of servicemen consider themselves deceived, privately sharing about actual conditions in their military units and Russian Armed Forces in general. This overview offers discussion about the new 150th Motorized Rifle Division formed in Rostov region and some realities of current conditions within its units.
The steel monster image presented by the Russian propaganda
On Aug.04 the Russian newspaper Izvestia published an article about the new 150th Motorized Rifle Division ‘with unique organizational and staff structure’ deployed near the Ukrainian border in Rostov region. According to the publication, citing sources in the military and field experts, the new Division is considered unique due to the structure of its main combat units: instead of the usual combination of three motorized rifle regiments (MRR) and one tank regiment, it is formed of two motorized rifle and two tank regiments. Moreover, each MRR includes a reinforced tank battalion, and tank regiments include artillery divisions. There are also artillery and air defense regiments, as well as other support units.
The publication notes that Russian servicemen have adopted a nickname for the Division, calling it a ‘steel monster’ due to large maneuvering and assault force capacity, that is possible due to reduced numbers of staff and equipment.
The international community is no longer surprised by information campaigns undertaken through the Russian media for purposes of propaganda and fear mongering. From the early stages in the development, the InformNapalm OSINT group has started focused monitoring related to the Division. In April 2017, we put together and published some information regarding the staffing and organizational processes, based on the structural units of the Division.
The current and updated material is presented, based on results of regular OSINT monitoring in the border areas of Rostov region, as well as information coming from own sources affiliated with the Division, in order to reflect the actual state of affairs at the acclaimed military unit of the Russian Army.
Current state of affairs
Structure and development of the 150th Division
General information on the organizational structure is described fairly well in the Russian sources. However, the available data lack some detailed information that our investigation team managed to gather based on analysis of open sources monitoring as well as personal communication with some former and current servicemen of the Division.
Formally known as the150th Motorized Rifle Division of Idritsk and Berlin, honored by the Kutuzov order (military unit 22265). It started developing at the end of 2016 as part of the 8th general troops army of the Southern Military District. The Division represents a legacy of the former 150th Rifle Division, formed during the WWII in 1943, known for launching the takeover on the Reichstag building in May 1945.
The Headquarter (Administration, military unit 22179) is located in the Persianovka village of Rostov region. The structural composition of the Division is made of: two motorized rifle regiments – 102nd Motorized Rifle Regiment (military unit 91706) and 103rd Motorized Rifle Regiment, with main armor (weapons arsenal) – IFV-3; two tank regiments – 68th tank regiment (military unit 91714) and 163rd tank regiment (military unit 84839) with main armor of tanks type T-72Б3. The stationing locations are the village of Persianovka, and nearby training ranges – Kuzminsky and Kadamovsky. According to information obtained, the structural units of regiments are taken from the former 33rd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade in Maykop (Adigea) and since its relocation to Rostov region, in its current location in Persianovka. The tank regiments were formed in the town of Budennovsk in Stavropol region, on the basis of 205th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade. At present moment, the nearly full staffing is reached at the 102nd MRR and 68th TR. Meanwhile, development of the 103rd MRR and 163rd TR is still in progress. In addition to main assault units the Division includes: 933rd Air Defense Missile Regiment, formed in the town of Millerovo, and 381st Artillery Regiment (military unit 24390), formed at the temporary military base in the area of Kuzminsky training range (some data indicate that the regiment will change its location to Rostov-on-Don). The Division also includes several units for support and logistics, including: 174th Separate Recon Batallion (military unit 22265, Persianovka village), 258th Communications Battalion (military unit 84881), 539th Separate Engineering Battalion (formed of parts of the 11th Engineering Brigade, located in Kamensk Shahtinsk), 293rd Separate Support Battalion (military unit 98591, located in the town of Novocherkassk, Kadamovsky range), Medical Support battalion, separate UAV company, EW company, NBC protection company. The works related to staffing and equipment for structural units of the Division are expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
Officers in command: basic information
Commander in Chief: general major Bolgarev Peter Nikolaevich
Based on the data of the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, in 2015-2016 Peter Bolgarev, while in the colonel rank, has served as commander of the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Army Corps (LPR) of the Russian occupation troops in Donbas; management of the troops is performed through the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces via the center of territorial troops of the Southern Military District (some basic info for Bolgarev is provided in the database of the Mirotvorets center).
Deputy Commander for personnel affairs: colonel Dubkov Pavel Vladimirovich
Until recently served as Deputy Commander for personnel at the former 33rd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (mountain area) located in the town of Maikop in the Adigea region, this unit supplied troops to fill in Motorized Rifle Regiments for the 150th Division. Dubkov was mentioned during the 2014 scandal when four contract servicemen of the 33rd Brigade refused to participate in combat duty in Ukraine.
Commander of the 102nd Motorized Rifle Regiment: colonel Muradasilov Marat Soltanovich
Born in the Stavropol region, village Kaiasula. Completed studies at the Ulianovsk Military Academy for tank troops. During recent years of duty, he was stationed at the 102nd Russian military base located in the town of Gumri, in Armenia.
General organization of troops
In the initial stages of development, the Russian Ministry of Defense suggested that new divisions will be formed from contract based troops. To some extent this happened in practice, but under more detailed analysis the facts demonstrate a different profile of the Division staffing. The contract servicemen provide full duty just in the 2nd Battalion of the 102nd Regiment. Other Battalions in 102nd and 103rd Regiments are staffed largely by the term service soldiers who are also in short supply. In order to meet the required numbers of troops in various units of the Division, the typical approach used is transferring conscript soldiers, including new recruits, from other units in the district. The 174th Recon Battalion is staffed primarily with contract servicemen, this is the case for its recon and ground company (discussed in the earlier IN material). The 68th and 163rd Tank Regiments include both contract and conscript servicemen, with the large share of those in contract-based service composed of recent soldiers and sergeants of the term duty who completed specialized training courses and were enticed into entering the three-year contract service.
A different case applies to forming and recruitment of troops for the motorized rifle regiments, which focused on experienced servicemen familiar with operations in open conflict areas, both in the active duty status for transfer to the 150th Division and those in reserve.
As noted above, many contract servicemen of the Division consider they are treated unfairly. The major issue relates to the financial compensation for servicemen, that differs from the proposed amount of 35 thousand rubles (USD 585) and actual paid – 14800 (USD 247). Remuneration for contract servicemen is determined on the basis of several factors, including established salary plans, position held, period of military service and others. What this means for the deteriorating local currency and deepening crises under international sanctions resulting from aggressive behavior of the Russian state – the small salary does not cover basic living expenses for a household of 2-3 persons.
Another problem for contract servicemen arises because of the lack of housing. Many live in common military barracks shared with conscripts, while other options, like dorm-style or rented accommodation, are not provided due to lack of funding. In addition, servicemen are not comfortable with treatment they receive from commanders. In practical terms, new recruits experience same type of conditions as regular conscript soldiers. They do not have the benefit of working days with definite hours of duty or days off to leave the territory of military posts.
This causes a high level of staff turnover – some contract servicemen, just several months into their duty, start looking for transfers to other units or discharge to reserve. This has a negative effect on the working capacities of troops within the 150th Division, called by its former members a ‘showtime unit’ designed for demo purposes during parades and events, while incapable of real combat actions.
The livelihood conditions for officers and old-timers on the extended term service (warrant officers and sergeants) with access to housing or monetary compensation for rental expenses, in the Division is somewhat better. The sustenance is also provided through grey earning methods and corruption, including collection of extra fees for maintenance from conscripts. Some funds go into pockets of persons in command from periodic selling of material goods and fuel to external parties unofficially. Thus, a lauded autonomous tent field camp for one of the units does not have operating air-conditioning system in the hot weather conditions with 40C-degree heat, because diesel fuel allocated for these purposes has been sold outside by officers.
There are reported cases of behavior code violations among servicemen in the Division, with hazing on part of contract soldiers joined together in ethnic groups of Caucasian and Asian descent toward their conscript peers of Russian origin. The soldiers are forced to take up unfavorable jobs, off-duty work, with various rogue activity taking place including extortion.
Russian experts consider the newly formed 150th Division to have a unique organizational structure, equipped as a steel monster to meet the modern reality of warfare with hi-tech weapons and advanced maneuvering. Various units of the Division have capacity to operate in situations that involve precision weapons and radio-electronic interferences. With the size not as large as regular motorized rifle division, it is capable to provide greater firepower than the tank division. Some notable experiments to establish similar type of units took place in the Soviet Army during 1980s (in GDR), as well as early 2000s, however, both attempts were unsuccessful.
According to military experts advising InformNapalm, the capacity of a military unit is not determined by the number of old ironworks held (i.e. T-72B3 and BMP-3 viewed as modern by the current Russian standards, yet exemplify Soviet era equipment), it is established thru modern technology, its usage capabilities, and motivation of troops. The case of the 150th Division, demonstrates significant quantities of armored hardware, with insufficient staff numbers of soldiers and contract servicemen, recruitment of troops without adequate training or experience, lacking in motivation – all these factors make large numbers of hardware senseless.
One reason the Russian Army General Staff decided to implement this type of structure is related to problems with staffing for infantry units, while tank regiments can be reduced to any capacity: registered on paper as regiments while equipment with teams that are combat ready may be sufficient only for the battalion. In the US and other NATO member troops, the focus is made on developing technological capacity, whereas Russia continues to express its power through outdated ironworks.
The question arises, how effectively the infantry in such division would provide protection for the armor? The modern warfare cases demonstrate that tank units are capable of stopping trucks with mounted machineguns and modern anti-tank technology.
In the analysis of combat engagement of mechanised divisions during the 2003 operation in Iraq by the American and Allied troops, the reduction of staff and armored equipment did not diminish capacities of units. This was made possible with introduction of the newest weapons and military equipment that provide for superior firing, reconnaissance and information capability while engaging with the enemy. As it appears the Russian approach to increase equipment means forecasting large casualties without undertaking any preventive measures, while increasing the number of targets. Surprisingly, after intervention in Georgia in 2008, the commentary issued by the Russian side pointed at poor mobility and efficiency of heavily equipped divisions, and from 2010 reorganizing and transition to the brigade model has started.
Thus, what the details discussed above demonstrate – combat capacity of military units and troops should be kept confidential, yet the Russian propaganda makes this information public. With basic details issued by the Russian media, it is possible to make additional fact checking and research, that lead to the following conclusion – the acclaimed powers of the 150th Division serve as façade for demo purposes rather than the actual combat capacity.
Graphics Alex Alexidze.