Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A short documentary on Russian mercenaries.

Here is a short documentary about the Russian mercenaries in 1991 working for the Azeris. The Russian government had denied that the Russian planes were bombing the Armenian towns. It was true - the planes were not Russian but Azeri. The pilots, however, were Russian army officers.

The narrative is in Russian. For those who do not know Russian, here is a short recap:

The video features two Russians who were shot down over Karabagh within 6 months of each other in the early stages of the Karabagh War For Self Preservation. The first pilot, Yuri belichenko, was shot down on 25 October, 1991 over Stepanakert and describes why he signed up. The Azeris offered him an opportunity to make money ($5,000 per raid and an apartment). He was out of job once the Soviet Union collapsed, and the base in Baku where he was an officer was ransacked. He accepted the offer even though he knew the risks associated with being a mercenary. He was eventually let go and moved to Russia after he helped restore the Stepanakert airport runway - the same runway that he had destroyed earlier.

The second pilot, Anatoly Chestyakov, reveals more. He describes the amount of money he receives ($5,000 for each mission), that there were 6 more Russian pilots working for the Azeris and the type of missions which were designed to attack the civilians in order to spread fear and panic among the civilian population. He had already flown 30 or so bombing missions and killed God knows how many civilians. He committed suicide a week after the interview was filmed.

1 comment:

kronstadt said...

I don't think Azeri state-historians make too much of a secret of the fact that Russian officers helped in their war effort. The only difference is that (from the websites that I bumped into in the past) they seem to frame it in a way that the Russians felt so much for the Azeri cause that they decided to help voluntarily. There were also on the ground Russian and Ukrainian mercenaries as well.

What worries me most at this stage is the way that Azerbaijan has been managing it's SOFAZ (I and actually woking on an article, a condensed version of which I might publish on , which analises SOFAZ management, Military expenditure and the Dutch Disease). They are spending heavily on the military, while money is urgently needed in many other sectors (especially given that 49.7% live below UN poverty line, which is an ultimate security risk, because it means that these people find themselves on the brinks of life and death on a daily basis; Armenian statistics are pretty bad as well 9% -- it's also called Absolute Poverty).

The azeri air-force was virtually anihilated in the war and that was a major factor behind their signing of the cease fire. Since then they have built up a considerable air-fleet with an addition force of 15000 paratroopers. They have a relative advantage, but not the absolute advantage, which is what is needed in modern warfare to regain the control of NKR. This article here runs a comparative analysis
Wikipedia also has a lot of info, and some of the Azeri airfleet can be seen from GoogleEarth.
Azerbaijan has been increasing its milirary expenditure geomertically especially in the recent 3-4 years: $160mil, $300mil, $600mil and now $1bil for 2007.

From the pattern it appears that they are basically mounting leverage on Artsakh negotiations, but given that in 2008 is also Aliev's re-election season, I wouldn't be surprised if he would start a war just before the re-elections so as to promptly win the ellections.

For him it would be a popularity stunt.
But What poses a concern are their TU-16 Bardger heavy Bombers, which where 10 in 2006 and will increase to 20 in 2007 -- these heavy bombers are not designed for military installations, but for civilian areas.
A sharp incrase of Mi-24 heavy gunship helicopters to 65 in 2007 is also worrying.

Given the whole US/UK media hype about Iran, I wouldn't be surprised if Azeris could use that window of opportunity to attack. I don't think they would take Artsakh, but many civilian casualties in Artsakh could result, which is what worries me most.