Russians: another fruitful Harvest

Maj. Valery Kovalenko
Sgt. Artyom Bezborodov
Sgt. Maxim Zakharov
First published April 10, 2003

Seven years after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) nobody is able to make an assessment of the number of unregistered weapons and ammunition kept by locals. Since these weapons pose a real danger, one of SFOR's priorities is to collect them. The amount of weapons gathered during just 50 days of the Active Harvest performed by the Russian Military Contingent (RMC) show that a potential threat to a safe and secure environment still exists.

Last year the previous Harvest was very efficient and the results were really astonishing. The Commander of the RMC believes such great results were achieved due to good organisation, management and co-ordination. February was a month of intensive Information Operations held among the locals.
The power of word
The Information and Analytic Group (IAGR) led by Lt. Col. Alexander Ryabukhin tried to influence locals by using the real examples of tragedies that happened in the RMC Area of Responsibility. The death of a teenager, who set up an improvised arsenal in the Coretach village, was one example. Another was the explosion of a chimney in the Bulodjani village, caused by the accidental introduction of an explosive substance. It affected the parents of three children, making them invalids.
The plan included the design of posters, their dissemination, publication of press releases, conducting of conferences, broadcasting from Osvit in Zvornik and BN-Radio in Bijeljina and finally co-operation with radio MIR. The most effective influence was exerted through a television campaign that was created with the help of US soldiers and broadcasted by BN-TV
Cpl. Dmitry Matrosov, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team member said: "We are glad to be successful in collecting illegal weapons; we hope that it will be a good contribution to the common SFOR efforts, for the implementation of the cause of peace."
"We are also very grateful to our counterparts as they rendered great support and assistance," Ryabukhin added.
On the third day of the information phase, the locals of Jablonica let Russian soldiers know about a big ammunition depot, located in an old shed. EOD teams, led by Maj. Alexei Vikulov, found there all the weapons, boxes of ammunition and facilities needed to equip two mortar batteries.
Real Active Harvest
The achievements of Active Harvest are the result of a good preparatory work. From day to day the soldiers patrolled, examined the situation and got acquainted with local leaders, local police chiefs and enforcement organisations. Furthermore they co-ordinated their actions with other contingents and EOD teams, such the Americans, Polish and Turkish.
The most successful group was under the command of Col. Valery Kiselev. This was much to the credit of the interpreters: 2Lt. Alexey Okhapkin and Svetlana Pavlovich.
The local population was informed in advance about the location of weapons collection points and that's why they brought the weapons on their own. They also turned in weapons directly to the checkpoint of the RMC base.
The deputy commander of MNB-N, US Col Johnson, was present for the destruction of the weapons and ammunition. "I appreciate what the RMC has done. This unit has collected many more weapons and ammunition than any other contingent. I wish they would share their experience and secrets with others," he said.
It is - partly - done.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Russia
Project Harvest

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Photo: Maj. Rinat Ahmedzjanov

"Thank you, boy!" Even children brought weapons to Col Kiselev.


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Photo: Maj. Valery Kovalenko

Miljan Lazic from Ravno Polje decided to turn in his weapons too.


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Photo: Maj. Valery Kovalenko

This nearly new weaponry will not hurt anybody anymore.


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Photo: Maj. Valery Kovalenko

The RMC EOD team prepares the weapons for destruction.


Results of 'Active Harvest'
Feb. 01 - March 23

Mortars 5
Fire arms 537
Small arms ammo 103,033
Mortar rounds 309
Grenades 2,528
Mines 100
Plastic explosives 506kg