The Tambov military garrison prosecutor has told Kommersant charges have been lodged against Sergey Sidorenko, deputy commander of a unit at the elite Lipetsk pilot training center. Sidorenko and others allegedly extorted 3 million rubles of premium pay from other officers at Lipetsk since the beginning of 2010.
According to Senior Lieutentant Igor Sulim, who wrote about the situation at Lipetsk in his blog in May, the training center’s chief of staff, Colonel Eduard Kovalskiy and his deputy Sergey Tereshin organized the scheme, and Sidorenko carried it out. Sulim maintains the entire leadership of the unit [center?] and local law enforcement knew about the extortion racket.
After Sulim went public, investigators substantiated his accusations, and the Defense Ministry reportedly began to check premium pay distribution in other military units.
Last week, Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy acknowledged that extortion in the distribution of supplementary pay in army units is ubiquitous, “beginning in company sub-units and ending with higher staffs.” He continued:
“Criminal cases on the facts of extortion are being investigated in practically every district and fleet.”
He also criticized the Air Forces for pressuring the victims:
“Instead of conducting rapid checks and adopting severe measures toward bribe-takers, VVS Glavkomat officials, essentially, began pressuring the personnel for bringing situation out of the shadows.”
For his part, Sulim says:
“The center’s leadership headed by General Aleksandr Kharchevskiy is trying to dissociate itself from this story. Kharchevskiy, for example, announces he didn’t know anything about extortion from pilots. At the same time, he tries to sully me, publicly calling me first deranged, then a homosexual. Meanwhile, they’ve hardly let me fly since May 14, and this means soon essentially I’ll have to learn to fly again.”
During the Defense Ministry’s check for similar problems elsewhere, the only other situation to receive press attention was a case involving some Black Sea Fleet aviation units. See Komsomolskaya pravda and Novyy region.