Five years have passed after the rapid completion of the victorious campaign of the troops of the North Caucasus Military District and the Airborne Troops through the valleys and hills of Georgia, mostly along the territory that soon became an independent state. We deliberately did not use the word “war” here, since it was not named as such in official documents - it’s just “an operation to force Georgia to peace.” Operation with live shooting, using aviation, artillery and other means of warfare. And of course, with the victims. That is why we will call the events described in this article a war. After all, when artillery volleys are thundering, troops are in battle formations and people are dying, this is war.
Speaking about the pre-history of the 2008 armed conflict in the South Caucasus, it should be recalled that in the beginning of the 90-s bloody battles took place between the Georgian army and poorly organized detachments of the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Then, armed conflicts were stopped thanks to the resolute stance of Russia, which achieved the decisions of the CIS heads on a cease-fire and the introduction of peacekeeping units on the line of demarcation of the opposing sides. Note that all decisions taken had the proper legal status. However, these measures only suppressed the flames of interethnic hostility, but by and large did not satisfy either the Georgians - on the one hand, nor the population of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - on the other. The former did not want and could not tolerate the loss of jurisdiction over the rebel territories, and the latter rejected this jurisdiction, as they stated, forever.
The teachings were conducted, they knew about the future war
The situation of "neither peace nor war" persisted for nearly 20 years. During this time, changes have occurred in the region that radically changed the military-political situation.
First, the two Chechen campaigns left behind themselves hotbeds of instability in the form of increasing terrorist activity in the national republics of the North Caucasus. Secondly, we emphasize this in particular, most of the population of Abkhazia and South Ossetia received Russian citizenship. And thirdly, Mikhail Saakashvili became president of Georgia with openly anti-Russian policy.
All military leaders knew that the war would be known, and the approximate dates of its start were known. Developed and relevant plans. I took an active part in this work, since I was then acting as Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Abkhazia (RA). After a brilliant and complicated operation, our military intelligence got hold of the plan of the attack of the Georgian army on Abkhazia. With the permission of the top leadership, I introduced him to Russian and foreign journalists accredited to the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia. He showed them operational materials, and called the dates for the start of the war: the end of July - the beginning of August 2008.
So, to assume that the highest officials of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, including the then Minister Serdyukov, did not have this information, would mean to show the highest degree of disregard for the specialists of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
The combat training of the Russian troops deployed in close proximity to the areas of upcoming battles was carried out for several years. The Caucasus exercises were held annually, which involved not only parts of the North Caucasus Military District, but also Black Sea ships fleet, Caspian flotilla, aviation, Air Defense Forces, internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, units of the Ministry of Emergencies of the Russian Federation and the Border Troops of the FSB of the Russian Federation, personnel of internal affairs bodies.
There are a lot of questions left
In July 2008, the Georgian army withdrew from the barracks and places of permanent deployment in order to carry out the most ambitious “Instant Response” military exercises since independence. Intelligence said that the Georgian commanders were very serious about the fulfillment of the assigned combat training tasks. They were preparing seriously, but in a real situation it turned out differently than in the training places. Much has been written and said about the mistakes and miscalculations of the Georgian command during the five-day hostilities. But to the simplest question, we did not find the answer anywhere: why did the Georgian units not occupy the heights that dominate the southern extremity of the tunnel under the Roki Pass? After all, this was enough for two artillery batteries and a company of special forces. Why finally did not blow up the tunnel itself, reliably isolating South Ossetia from Russia?
But to the high ranks beyond the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains there are no less questions.
I repeat: the top leadership of Russia was notified in advance of the proximity and inevitability of military actions in the South Caucasus. So what did not work in the military body of the Russian army? Why was there a statement from the high-level officials: they said, they were late, they lost a day, perhaps even two, delayed with the introduction of an approved plan in advance. Some even blamed the senior military commander, that is, the Supreme Commander. And some outstanding strategists for the whole world trumpeted the main complaint addressed to the Russian military: why in the first hours after the attack of the Georgian units on Tskhinval our landing force was not dropped? Say, 76-I Airborne Division was already familiar with the theater of operations and was in combat readiness, it remains only to give the order.
These figures either did not know, or pretended that they did not know - it was precisely this scenario that the enemy, apparently, was counting on. The fact is that the air defense forces and equipment of Georgia were ready to repel the attacks of the Russian Air Force’s aviation. Passive reconnaissance radars "Kolchuga-M" received a picture of the air situation, transmitted the coordinates of targets to the Buk-М1 and Osa-AK / AKM airplanes, which launched missiles on our planes. And admittedly, successful launches. For the first two or three days, the enemy securely and tactically protected the airspace over South Ossetia. Imagine that Russian planes would try to reset the landing. They would not have come close to Tskhinval, they would have been shot down two or three kilometers from the border. So it happened to our pilots, who from 8 to 10 August performed combat missions in “free flight” in the zone of the Georgian air defense, while at the same time incurring unreasonable and unjustified losses. By the way, the loss of the Tu-22М3 heavy bomber looks particularly strange. How and why the aircraft of a strategic, and not front-line aviation, generally appeared in the combat zone over South Ossetia? Was he preparing to drop a nuclear weapon?
Why is this situation? I will answer. Experts know that when building an air echelon before launching an air strike, reconnaissance planes are the first to go, then the aircraft is used to suppress enemy radar reconnaissance, guidance and control systems. And only they are followed by strike aircraft. After the air strikes, additional reconnaissance and a decision is taken to re-strike the aircraft. However, this was not done, and the clash with the Georgian air defense was a painful ordeal for our aircraft. At the same time, Georgian aviation freely performed combat missions over the capital of South Ossetia.
Apparently, our radio intelligence did not work or worked ugly. If it acted as it should, it would have been easy to locate the enemy command posts of all levels and strike them at the first stage of the armed conflict.
To put it mildly, it was surprising that the Russian side did not use any means of electronic warfare. All, I repeat, all the headquarters of the Georgian units freely used the radio, freely set the task for the troops to move, passed the coordinates of the location of the Russian parts of the 58-th combined-arms army and peacekeeping forces.
I will give some excerpts from the radio intercepts.
- “Delta”, I “Bravo”. Our turntables have now flown, they will start bombing.
- Stop the artillery! All units! Works while aviation! Will be bombed everywhere, help everyone!
- “Bravo”, I am “Delta”. After our aircraft has completed its work, it will be necessary to urgently begin bombing at the coordinates of 16800, 79700.
- “Alpha”, I “Kilo”. The battalion is in Nikozi, the artillery is in positions.
- “Bravo” - to everyone, everyone! Our sides are of different types in the air, they work, they cannot fire at them.
“Kilo, I'm Alpha.” Contact the commander. Your personnel must advance towards Nikozi and strengthen their positions. When the aircraft is completed, let the artillery begin massive shelling, there are no ours there.
- Bravo, I'm Eco. Coordinates 16800, 79050 ...
- Listen, artillery will start beating now.
- “Delta”, I “Bravo”. Coordinates 16800, 79900.
- "Eco", I "Bravo." Not scary if these coordinates hit? Maybe make 79800?
- “Alpha”, I “Bravo”. Coordinates 13900, 74900. A large concentration of the enemy. A lot of armored vehicles and personnel.
- “Delta”, I “Bravo”. From this point on 100 meters towards Tskhinval urgently bomb ...
- ... on 800 meters below “Eco” stands from these coordinates. Beat according to the coordinates, and then “Eco” will give an amendment. Start bombing.
- "Eco", I "Bravo." Now she will start bombing artillery.
Yes, one can only wonder why the air was free for enemy groups ’radio communications, and our electronic warfare units didn’t even try to hinder the work of enemy headquarters? And this unacceptable situation persisted for three days: from 8 to 11 in August.
There were no errors
Separately, I will say about peacekeeping forces. The forces located along the division of the parties of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict were peacekeeping, but they were armed with small arms weapons: machine guns, machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers. There were also armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles. The armament is serious enough, and with its skillful use, especially in mountainous terrain, the troops are able to detain even a superior enemy for a long time and cause him serious damage. Examples in stories enough wars. Each graduate of a military school knows the procedure for action in such an environment. Judging by the events that took place, there was no plan for interaction of the peacekeeping forces with the armed forces of South Ossetia or it was not put into action. As a result, Russian peacekeepers suffered losses in manpower and equipment.
What has been said is far from having exhausted the list of errors and inconsistencies in the actions of the Russian command. For example, when making a march by Russian troops, the distance between units and vehicles was not maintained. That is why, with one enemy’s fire attack, our mortar battery was destroyed. On the march, there was no camp guard, including side marches. As a result, Georgian saboteurs attacked the 58 Army’s mobile command post without any obstacles and its commander was seriously wounded. Our columns were without air cover. Navigators did not work, but most likely they were not. Unforgivable negligence, because any cadet without hesitation will answer that one of the most important tasks at the initial stage of hostilities is disrupting the enemy’s air offensive and, in a particular situation, repelling massive air strikes. True, Georgian aviation was unable to deliver massive air strikes against our unprotected troops. However, everything could have happened differently if the enemy had raised only two or three links of assault aircraft into the air.
Throughout the entire operation in South Ossetia and during the combat training that preceded it, the questions of concealment, imitation, demonstration, and disinformation were not worked out in any way.
Further. Artillery in firing positions deployed directly on the routes of movement, where the distance between the guns, combat vehicles did not exceed 10 meters. Attack aircraft attack - and the loss would have been beyond.
The events of August 2008 found me, as I have already said, as Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Abkhazia.
8 August in 0.35 I got in touch with the president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity.
And, of course, the first question: "The situation?".
Answer: “Difficult, my brother. Very difficult. They're coming. ”
The second question: "Are minefields on the main directions established?".
Answer: “I am handing the phone over to the Minister of Defense.”
The Minister of Defense to the same question: “I am handing the phone over to the Chief of General Staff.”
The answer of the Chief of General Staff: “No! Not installed.
Question: “Comrades commanders, have you been preparing? Have you prepared for anything? ”.
The answer gave life, it can not be changed - he went down in history. And this answer: “No! Did not prepare! They hoped that Russian Vanka, with a gun, would settle everything ”.
And the truth is, Roly has settled. Breast rose and defended their land for the Ossetians. Just as for the Bulgarians, Armenians, Czechs, Jews and many other nations, it’s impossible to count them all. If someone has forgotten or grimaces, fooling about not remembering, then it’s not a sin to remind.
Acted according to plan
Long before August 2008, as the chief of the General Staff of the RA Armed Forces, I developed several versions of a plan for the use of forces and means, plans for war. RA Minister of Defense General of the Army Mirab Kishmaria submitted for approval to the president as commander-in-chief one of them, in which it was planned to go on the offensive only after causing maximum and sufficient damage to the enemy with air strikes and artillery fire. This option was given unconditional preference, since it created the conditions for victory with the minimum number of casualties among the personnel.
Even when I reported 12.08.08: “The cutting edge is clean. The enemy is running, ”followed the command:“ To deliver an additional strike to aviation on the same objects, to inflict massive artillery fire raids. ” Why was such caution taken? I think the reason is subjective. General Kishmaria, who gave this order, fought in Afghanistan, was awarded orders, and during the Patriotic War of 1992 – 1993 Abkhaz people commanded the Eastern Front and, as he said, every dead officer, soldier is tears in his eyes, this is repentance: “What did not this way? You win with minimal losses - you are a commander, and if not, you must either learn or look for another profession. And the fact that after the August war, no mother in Abkhazia and Russia cried when she received a funeral, this is the highest award to the commander ”.
In Armenia, as in South Ossetia, there was no plan for interaction of peacekeepers with national armed forces. But on the other hand, there was a detailed plan for replacing the contingent of peacekeeping forces with units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation under the threat of war, which was done. In the first hours after the start of the fighting, the peacekeeping posts in the Kodori Gorge were replaced by a reinforced mountain rifle battalion. And by the end of 8 August, all possible routes for the enemy’s advancement were mined, reconnaissance forces and means were strengthened, a concealment plan was put into effect, and all measures of the plan to bring the troops into a high degree of combat readiness were completed.
As mentioned above, special attention was paid to radio intelligence. We controlled all the negotiations of the units of the Georgian army. We knew the situation on the territory of Abkhazia, especially in the upper Kodori Gorge, on the territory of South Ossetia and on the territory of Georgia itself. Due to this, the operation “Kodor” was completed without loss from our side.
An example of the hostilities conducted in August 2008, should be studied and summarized along with errors and miscalculations in the actions of our troops and attached military units. However, no one asks the main thing: why do we fight and teach to fight carelessly and in the old manner?
It is not a template to fight, but thinking and foreseeing all possible options - this is what our commanders of all levels should be taught.