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A Monday (not) like others

By 2nd Lt. Alexandre Barbé
First published in
SFOR Informer#110, April 4, 2001

Monday is a very busy day for the paratroopers of the 1st Peacekeeping Russian Separate Airborne Brigade (PRSAB). Shooting training, instruction and patrols, nothing is missed on the programme.

Ugljevik - Everybody is gathered in the parade square. Col. Vladimir Demidov, commanding officer, takes stock of the last week and gives orders for the next one.
"We lead all usual SFOR peacekeeping missions: patrols, weapons storage sites inspections, roads and bridges rebuilding, medical support to population," said Maj. Mikhail Rybchninski, Public Affairs officer of the brigade.
The soldiers (about 1,200 men) come from different Russian units, that's the reason for its name (separate). "Before coming to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), our soldiers must pass various tests. They're divided into four camps: Ugljevik, Priboj, Simin-Han and Vukosavci. One of the main options is to have previously served in real combat operations," Rybchinski added.
At the moment, soldiers from the PRSAB are concentrating on Bijeljina municipality, on the border of Serbia. "We have increased our number of patrols in that area because a lot of displaced persons and refugees are coming back, especially in the town of Janja," Rybchinski explained. "We also lead patrols in the area of Zvornik and in the vicinity of Brcko District.”
At the same time, a sudden brake makes the gravel crunch. A soldier is testing a BTR 80 before leaving on mission. With the spring coming, the Maintenance Company has a lot of work. The 200 transport vehicles (jeeps, Ural) and the 120 battle vehicles (BTR 80, BMD 1 and 2) need to get their oil changed for the summer so they can complete their missions.
While on the parade square some soldiers are exercising and detonations are banging from the firing range in Lasarevica. Soldiers from the 4th Battalion are training with their Makarov Pistols and AK-74s. Following a random programme, the targets suddenly appear from the ground at 200, 250 and 300 metres from the paratroopers. But none of the targets remain. The shooters improve their skills using a minimum of ammunition every week on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

Assistance to population

Harvest Operation
Last year, thanks to the Harvest Operation success, the Russians collected more than 22,664 small arms, grenades, mines and ammunitions. The Harvest Operation has been underway since 1996. The most important seizes have been done near the towns of Janja, Kuzuluk and Grinja, Bosniac return sites.

Other mission, other means. The medical and health care centre is one of the things that the Russians are the most proud of. "We have 25 people working here, among them doctors in all specialities: ophthalmology, surgery … In each one of our three other camps we have two doctors, a surgeon, three paramedics, a mobile operating vehicle, two emergency evacuation vehicles (and) one armoured personal carrier (APC) for medical service," said Lt. Col. Constantin Tikhonov, chief of the medical centre in Ugljevik.
Every morning, many civilians, about 10 a day, come to the health centre. On a map, Tikhonov points out the villages where the help is needed the most. A few words reverberate in the corridor. An old woman comes for a consult. Quickly, a doctor takes care of her, an interpreter by his side. "Most of our patients suffer from heart, blood, nerves or eye diseases. But the main problem is the medicines, which are very expensive," Tikhonov commented. "We are building a new medical complex for local civilians," he added.
Even if the Russians seem to be isolated in the northeast of the country, that's not true. They do participate to SFOR missions, as they play a primordial role in Multinational Division - North.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Russia
Training and Exercises