In Monday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin described a 15 May demonstration outside the Defense Ministry by former officers who were allocated ‘virtual’ apartments in Balashikha six months ago, but have been unable to occupy them due to slow paperwork. Their demands are simple: these retirees want bureaucratic obstacles removed.
The protest was not covered by the media, or received only scant coverage. However, the Defense Ministry’s promise to fix the problems for former servicemen from Balashikha was reported widely in the press.
Mukhin’s subtitle for the article reads, “Unfulfilled Presidential housing program for the military leading to protest actions.” He concludes that military demonstrations have been so rare in post-Soviet history that, if they occur, they have to be symptomatic of something. He says similar protests have happened in other regions with large military garrisons.
Everyone remembers Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reports about fulfilling the military housing program in 2009. However, it’s becoming clear that this didn’t happen. New military housing and construction chief Grigoriy Naginskiy not long ago announced that of 45,000 permanent apartments handed out in 2009, less than half have been occupied. So the plan wasn’t achieved. This has provoked a protest mood in the army, and the authorities, it seems, prefer not to notice it.
Mukhin cites similar situations and actions in Bashkiriya, and elsewhere in Moscow’s far suburbs. The All-Russian Professional Union of Servicemen (OPSV or ОПСВ) tells Mukhin it’s pretty simple. A garrison is drawn down, and officers who don’t want to relocate are put out of their apartments (sometimes into the street). The garrison is then sold by Defense Ministry officials with a direct interest in this. Mukhin concludes, that’s the ‘new profile’ army for you.
OPSV Chairman Oleg Shvedkov told Mukhin several thousand retired officers and servicemen participated in May 1 protests around the country. They protested not just housing, but also pension and pay problems. But, of course, active-duty servicemen are prohibited from participating in political actions under the law.
Viktor Baranets also addressed the plight of former officers in Balashikha in a 12 May article.
According to ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti, a Defense Ministry housing official promised on 15 May that the problem of 80 retired servicemen and the apartments allocated to them in Balashikha would be resolved before the end of June. He said the process of preparing all the necessary documents would be complete by that time.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said a meeting with an ‘initiative group’ [i.e. the protesters] was held in the ministry. He also indicated the Defense Ministry is trying to speed up and smooth out the process of preparing and registering survey and property ownership documents.