Category Archives: Crime and Corruption

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from Tuesday, April 24 . . .

Dmitriy Rogozin (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Druzhinin)

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin generated a good bit of news during his visit to the Urals last week.  It’s hard to keep up with him.  In a sense, it’d be a real shame if he’s not in the next government.

Krasnaya zvezda published a wrap of his remarks.

Rogozin indicated Russia will demand the best new weapons from its OPK, not “metal hulks” that are soon scrapped.  He laid out his reasons for not buying foreign armaments.  And, he says, Russia doesn’t want to be China, blindly copying foreign models.  But he said his country still wants ideas and technology, if not a lot of hardware, from abroad.

Rogozin blames Russia’s space launch woes of the weakness of its “element” or component base.

RIA Novosti reported his assessment that Russian military electronics lag foreign developments by 5-12 years.  Russia doubled its investment in electronics last year according to Rogozin.

But back to KZ . . . it gave this interesting Rogozin quote:

“Russia must no longer be a hydrocarbon partner, it’s time for us to become an industrial power [hasn’t this time passed?].  We could have become such a power in the last century.  Now it’s important to overcome the gap in Russia’s history.  If business won’t participate in the country’s development, then we won’t achieve anything.”

In some non-Rogozin stories . . .

Militaryparitet.com cited a blog citing Interfaks to the effect that Kurganmashzavod will not be asked to renew production of BMP-3s for the army despite earlier indications it would.  The item notes the President’s polpred in the Urals saying the army has also declined to buy the BMD-4M.

Mil.ru wrote about Ka-52 helo training at Chernigovka army air base in Primorskiy Kray.  More than half the base’s pilots already practiced on the Ka-52 at the Torzhok training center.  Chernigovka will be completely reequipped with the new helo this year, according to the Defense Ministry website.  The “intensity” of flight exercises at the base doubled over the last year and increased 45 percent in the first three months of 2012.

Mil.ru also mentioned the completion of LRA training in the Far East.  There were 40 bomber flights and ten cruise missile launches on the Litovka range according to the Defense Ministry.

Vzglyad citing Interfaks reported on Irkut’s president saying the company will make a combat version of the Yak-130 trainer.  It will have greater thrust and be intended for Russia and for export.

Last, an update on the Belevitin corruption case.  Former GVMU chief, Aleksandr Belevitin faces malfeasance and bribery charges that could net him a total of 22 years in prison.  Pretty harsh by Russian standards.  The state is also seeking 51 million rubles in damages from him.  His defense is still examining the prosecutor’s case against him.  Recall the state believes he and his deputy took bribes in return for procuring overpriced MRI machines from a foreign firm.

Ivashov on the Army and Putin

Leonid Ivashov

Leonid Ivashov recently talked to Narodnyy politolog on a variety of army topics including reforms, the possibility of a big war, rearmament, president-elect Vladimir Putin, and his military program.  Segodnia.ru also printed the interview.

Once Russia’s top military diplomat, now avowed geopolitician, the former three-star thinks Putin fears externally-driven regime change and is improving the army to forestall such an eventuality.  Ivashov sees a U.S.-led West depriving Russia of allies before focusing on Russia itself.

Asked about army reforms, Ivashov says they have succeeded in cutting forces, but not in rearming them or improving their social conditions.  Reforms have degraded and weakened the army.  Military men mock the New Profile reforms saying, “There’s a profile, but not armed forces.”  Ivashov calls reforms craziness, and says it’s like servicemen have lived in a house under continuous repair for 25 years.

Following up his comment on mobilization reserves cut to the bare minimum, NP asked the retired general-colonel if a big war is possible today.

Ivashov says yes.  Citing how “they” are beating up Russia’s strategic allies (Syria and Iran), he says “What is this if not war?”

Ivashov foresees a large conflict between the U.S. and China and possible spinoff regional and local wars.  He cites a Chinese specialist who calls for a Russian-Chinese alliance to deter a big war and curb the appetite of the West and international oligarchs.

Is Russia ready for such an eventuality?  Ivashov answers:

“I think Putin understands perfectly how military weakness and the absence of strategic allies can be the end for Russia.  Clearly, the Libyan situation ‘helped’ him understand this, just like what is happening now in Syria, and what they are preparing for Iran.  If you can’t defend the country, you are subjecting yourself to a great risk personally.”

“Now Putin is making a sharp turn to the side of strengthening defense capability.  One can only welcome this.  Because today they don’t simply beat the weak, they destroy them.”

Ivashov calls Putin’s military program ambitious, if not systematic.  The regime’s been in a “light panic” since Libya.

He intimates that more than 20 percent of the state armaments program will be stolen since the amount of theft cited by the military prosecutor covers only cases under investigation, not all corruption.

Ivashov suggests lobbying has replaced forecasts of future military actions as the driver of arms procurement.

The case of Mistral, which one wonders where it will be built and how it will be used, Ivashov says well-connected lobbyist structures ensure what gets produced is exactly what their enterprises make.  He was somewhat encouraged that Putin, at Sarov, entertained turning to specialists and experts to examine the army’s requirements.

On GPV 2020, Ivashov concludes it’ll be a serious step forward if only half of what’s planned gets produced, but it can’t be equipment designed in the 1970s and 1980s.  He sees OPK production capacity problems too.  He questions whether Votkinsk can produce 400 solid-fueled ballistic missiles by 2020.

Returning to the big war, he questions a focus on defensive operations for Russian conventional forces, saying offensive capabilities are needed to deter potential enemies.  He claims reduced force structure and mobilization capability have become a joke in the General Staff:

“The main problem for the Chinese in a conflict with us is not defeating our brigade, but finding it.”

Ivashov’s just a little up in arms over the armor situation.  He all but accuses the General Staff Chief of being a paid (or bribed) lobbyist for foreign tank and armored vehicle makers.  He suggests that Army General Makarov should be placed in cuffs if he says the Leopard-2 is better than the T-90 [what about Postnikov then?], and the Main Military Prosecutor should investigate him.

So what is to be done first and foremost to strengthen the country’s defense capability today?

Ivashov replies get rid of Serdyukov and Makarov who have done great damage, and strengthen cadres in the OPK and military by replacing “managers” with those who can apply military science (as Ivashov was taught) to the problem of developing new weapons.

The always provocative Ivashov doesn’t venture whether he thinks  the current emphasis on defense capability will continue or have the intended results.  He seems sincerely to believe in a possible Western intervention in Russia’s internal affairs.  But it’d be more interesting to hear him talk about whether the army would fight for Putin’s regime in something less than that maximal contingency.  Ivashov, unlike some critics of Russia’s defense policy, shies away from blaming the once-and-future Supreme CINC for at least some of the current military state of affairs.

Thickening Clouds

Deputy PM Rogozin and Serdyukov (photo: Yuriy Magas)

Anatoliy Serdyukov completed his fifth year as Russia’s Defense Minister on Wednesday (February 15).

But the inimitable Argumenty nedeli concludes “clouds are thickening” around him. 

AN says Serdyukov’s in the “eye of a storm” of PA cadre changes, and he’s begun sacrificing subordinates to save himself.

The paper’s Defense Ministry source claims there will be a large number of resignations from “support structures controlled by the military department,” i.e. the quasi-commercialized, civilianized logistic agencies established to outsource “non-core” military functions.

OAO Slavyanka — responsible for housing and communal services in military towns — will lose its general director, Aleksandr Yelkin, over poor winter preparations and boiler breakdowns in Murmansk, Kaliningrad, and the Far East. 

Not surprisingly, the source says this decision followed Prime Minister Putin’s harsh criticism of Serdyukov on February 9.  See Kommersant, Komsomolskaya pravda, Nezavisimaya gazeta, or Newsru.com for more on this.

The general director of Agroprom — an affiliate of OAO Oboronservis — Natalya Dynkova, lost her position for “redistributing” the military food procurement market.  Agroprom declined an AN request for comment on Dynkova’s situation.

AN’s source also says Serdyukov’s apparat chief [chief of staff] Yelena Vasilyeva is also “hanging by a thread.”  From detention, the indicted former chief of GVMU, General-Major Aleksandr Belevitin has given evidence against her. 

Several months ago, AN claimed dustups with Vasilyeva led to former Deputy Defense Minister Mokretsov’s departure as well as complaints from high-ranking civilians and officers.

Finally, AN’s officer source says the FSB is investigating and arresting some people connected to the Defense Ministry’s commercial structures.  He concludes Serdyukov is ridding himself of people who could compromise him or interfere with him finding a place in once-and-future president Putin’s new government this spring.

BFM.ru sounded a separate but similar note reporting that the chief of a firm entrusted with selling excess Defense Ministry property is suspected of fraud. 

General director of the “Expert” Legal Support Center, Ye. F. Smetanova  allegedly sold military property for reduced prices in exchange for kickbacks ranging from 5 to 25 percent of the transaction, according to the MVD.  She reportedly received 18 million rubles for endorsing the sale of four Samara Voyentorgy for 147 million. 

Investigators are trying to identify other Defense Ministry properties sold with kickbacks as well as possible co-conspirators in the schemes.

In 2011, the Defense Ministry conducted 43 auctions and sold real estate for 4.7 billion rubles.  Movable military property was sold to the tune of 560 million.

It’s worth recalling the Main Military Prosecutor’s words about the scale of Defense Ministry corruption in 2011.  He singled out commercial firms outsourcing for the military and violations of auction rules as particular problems, along with routine kickbacks and bribery.

Where does this leave us?

Things aren’t so rosy for Serdyukov right now. 

For one thing, Rogozin’s replacement of the virtually invisible Sergey Ivanov has probably been a near-daily irritation for the Defense Minister.

Even after five years, it’s still hard to get a handle on all the military’s “financial flows.” 

And resignations and reports of corruption don’t reflect well on Serdyukov.

Still, Serdyukov remains a member of Team Putin, and he’s probably secure.  The election season makes everyone nervous, and it’s hard to say who’s driving corruption charges.  Shaking out some incompetent or corrupt defense officials might serve to create the impression that Prime Minister Putin’s on top of things.

Cosmic Corruption

Sergey Fridinskiy

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy gave Interfaks an interview several weeks ago in which he described generally improved crime statistics in the Armed Forces.  But he also called the scale of corruption in the military nothing short of “cosmic.”

Fridinskiy told the news service the army’s crime situation is stable and even improving.  Crimes by servicemen are down 16 percent, and there are fewer crimes committed by officers.  There’s a constantly growing number of military units where no legal violations law are registered.  Last year fewer soldiers suffered violence at the hands of their fellow soldiers.  But the army’s top law enforcer doesn’t think he’ll run out of work any time soon:

“In particular areas, for example, like saving budget resources allocated for military needs, or corrupt activities, the crime level, as before, is significant.  And we’re still far from ridding ourselves of nonregulation relations.”

More than 1,000 military officials were prosecuted for corruption, including 18 general officers — one-third of whom received jail time.  Since January 2011, the GVP’s prosecuted 250 bribery cases, many more than in 2010.  Fridinskiy singled out the GOZ and commercial firms outsourcing for military units as areas where problems are “not small.”  He puts annual Defense Ministry losses to corruption at 3 billion rubles.

This is, interestingly, the same figure he cited in early 2010.

Asked about the types of corrupt schemes in the military, Fridinskiy responded:

“Mainly untargeted use of budget resources, violating the rules and requirements of conducting auctions, competitions, and contractor selection, paying for work not really performed, significant inflating of prices for military products.  There are also multifarious kickbacks, bribes, and misuse.  Generally, the banal sharing out of budget resources.  Devotees of living on state funds especially go for violations of the law.  Their scale now is simply stratospheric, I would even say, cosmic.”

Fridinskiy said the GVP’s been active in checking high-level Defense Ministry officials’ asset and property declarations.  He said called the scale of violations here “impressive.”  More often, he continued, the GVP finds evidence of servicemen and officials engaged in illegal entrepreneurship and commercial activity.  He mentioned an unnamed deputy Northern Fleet commander who failed to disclose his wife’s assets, and a Rosoboronpostavka bureaucrat who simultaneously serves as general director of a corporation.

The GVP Chief then shifted gears to talk about barracks violence which he said was down by 20 percent in 2011, with cases involving “serious consequences” declining a third.

Lastly, Interfaks asked about military police, of which Fridinskiy’s skeptical.  He emphasized military prosecutors will continue supervising army investigations, but he doubts MPs are ready to run criminal inquiries.  He repeated his familiar assertion that they aren’t a panacea; their existence won’t change the social factors behind crime among servicemen.

Would have been interesting if the news agency had asked if this year’s higher pay for officers will cut army crime in 2012.

Military Medicine Gets an Unsat

Valentina Matviyenko

We’ve seen reports of what reforms have done to Russian military medicine, but what follows is the first comprehensive review of its condition.  Cuts and reorganizations are on Defense Minister Serdyukov, but, to be fair, infrastructure deficiencies long predated him.  Military medicine is an area where he deserves some criticism.  But it’s unclear why it was the weak point chosen for an attack on his management, or why Valentina Matviyenko was the one to deliver it.  In any event, with the most recent chief of military medicine now in prison awaiting trial, it’s easy to conclude there are some pretty significant systemic problems.

Nezavisimaya gazeta reported Monday that a Federation Council panel on the social defense of servicemen has, not surprisingly, given military medicine an unsatisfactory evaluation.  It came despite a positive self-assessment from the Main Military-Medical Directorate (GVMU).  NG’s Sergey Konovalov said Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, who conducted the session, repeated everything critical about military medicine heard recently from social organizations, parties, and the media.

Responding to the main report given by acting GVMU Chief, Colonel Anatoliy Kalmykov, Matviyenko said:

“You gave a positive assessment, you said that military medicine is coping with its missions.  And at the same time your own slide shows a growth in illnesses among servicemen . . . .  It’s higher than illnesses in the civilian population . . . .   Is it forbidden to evaluate yourself more critically?  Stop with this nonsense, comrade Colonel . . . .”

Konovalov notes for readers that Kalmykov’s only been at his temporary post for three weeks.  He’s taking the spot of General-Major Aleksandr Belevitin who’s in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges as well for an alleged attempt to arrange the murder of a witness.

He continues with Matviyenko’s remarks:

“. . . today we face an imbalance between the state’s obligations in the military medical sphere and the real financial resources allocated for this purpose.  Cuts in military hospitals, polyclinics have created problems in giving medical assistance.  In 17 regions, military-medical departments are lacking, in 30 military units, they are deployed very remotely from them, and the great distance is becoming an insurmountable obstacle to treating military service veterans.”

Matviyenko expressed concern about cutting officers and replacing them with civilian workers in military medicine.

An Audit Chamber auditor told the FC panel more than 1,000 Defense Ministry medical units and departments (38 percent of the total) occupy buildings and spaces which don’t meet technical and sanitary norms.  And 735 medical facilities (27 percent) need capital repair.  New medical equipment the Defense Ministry languishes because there aren’t medical buildings and centers in which it’s possible to treat patients.

The military’s representatives apparently claimed a lack of money.  But the Finance Ministry’s Director of the Department for Budget Policy in Military and Law Enforcement Services and State Defense Order, Aleksey Kaulbars rejected this:

“Just purely for health care, on the order of 39 billion rubles are allocated for the Defense Ministry.   A little more than 60% has been expended according to the situation as of today.  And what kind of grievances that it is insufficiently financed are possible in connection with this?  For health care facility construction, the assimilation is 30%.  Colleagues, what are we talking about?”

First Deputy GVP Andrey Nikulishchin is afraid unfinished construction and other military medical problems are connected with corruption.  He suggests that military medical units get only 20-50 percent of the medicines they require.  He blames elevated prices and “nontransparent” trade in them (presumably in addition to corruption).

The Ayderkhanov Case (Part I)

Ruslan Ayderkhanov

Here’s what looks like a case where the beating death of a conscript is being passed off as another suicide in the ranks.  We addressed this here, and the tragic Ayderkhanov case broke into the news just 11 days later.  This sad story deserved attention sooner than your author was able to give it.

Thursday Newsru.com reported Ayderkhanov’s body has been exhumed for additional medical examination to determine the cause and circumstances of his death.  Official examiners as well as one independent expert, Aleksandr Vlasov, will take part in the process which, according to RIA Novosti, should take two weeks.

Newsru recapped the basic facts.  On August 31, the 20-year-old Ayderkhanov went missing from V / Ch 55062, part of the Yelan garrison, located in Poroshino, Chelyabinsk Oblast.  His body was found hanging from a tree in nearby woods on September 3.

The military authorities were quick to label this an obvious suicide, but his relatives were suspicious about injuries all over Ayderkhanov’s body.  He had teeth knocked out, a broken leg, a missing eye, a knife wound in his chest, and burns, bruises, and abrasions.

The Yelan garrison’s military prosecutor opened an Article 110 “Incitement to Suicide” investigation, but just as quickly announced there were no facts indicating violence or the “violation of the regulations on mutual relations” [i.e. abuse] against Ayderkhanov.  The prosecutor concluded the soldier was simply depressed about the death of his mother last winter. 

The Main Military Prosecutor stated categorically there was no evidence of a beating, and any injuries on Ayderkhanov’s body were from banging against the tree on which he hung himself.  The GVP categorically rejected the idea of exhuming and examining the body again.

Radio Svoboda quoted GVP directorate chief Aleksandr Nikitin:

“There is evidence that his death was not a result of violent actions.”

RIA Novosti continued from Nikitin:

“A close examination of the place of death and Ayderkhanov’s body was conducted.  The investigation established that there are not any traces of violence which could have caused the serviceman’s death on the body.”

Ruslan Ayderkhanov

Nakanune.ru quoted a Central MD spokesman:

“According to preliminary data, no facts of nonregulation relations have appeared.  But if the guilt of officials is proven, they will be punished in the most strict way.”

According to Radio Svoboda, after the GVP proved no help, Chelyabinsk’s human rights ombudsman approached Aleksandr Vlasov.  Vlasov has stated his professional opinion that Ayderkhanov was struck at least 18 times while he was still alive.

Part II tomorrow.

Some Cracks in Air Forces’ Stonewall (Part II)

Returning to the latest on Igor Sulim . . . in a late July Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye article, Oleg Vladykin summarized the GVP’s various recent press releases about rising crime in the Armed Forces.  He provided insight into how senior officers view Sulim and premium pay extortion at Lipetsk.

A colonel, a deputy formation commander speaking anonymously told Vladykin:

“Almost the entire service of many senior officers came to twenty years in which they constantly humiliated, deprived the army whenever possible, and generally kept it in a miserable state.  But at the same time they used it regularly.  Senior officers carried all this gloom on their shoulders.  And here now, as if in gratitude, they promise to raise their pay three times!  Colonels will receive the same as junior managers in some public company, whose peaceful labor the army successfully defended in spite of everything.  Many have only a year or two left to serve, then dismissal in connection with reaching the age limit.  And what then?  And then also an increased, but still laughable pension.  It will be two times less than a lieutenant’s pay.  Therefore, senior comrades confidently tell younger officers:  ‘Boys, you still have everything ahead of you.  Somehow, you’ll manage to make a more or less decent living.  We here won’t…’  You know the majority understand this.  And those like Senior Lieutenant Sulim from the Lipetsk Center are the exceptions.  I’m not judging them, no, but I’m sure that after 1 January the prosecutors won’t easily locate those who’ll agree to talk about their contributions to their senior colleagues.”

Vladykin says he can’t agree with this argument, but it’s impossible not to note some logic in it.  He concludes:

“The psychology of men in shoulderboards has changed very powerfully in the course of recent Armed Forces transformations.”

In his Moskovskiy komsomolets blog Friday, Sulim highlighted an article posted on Lipetsk’s Gorod48.ru.  The article reviewed the shady, semi-criminal past of Hero of the Russian Federation, General-Major Aleksandr Kharchevskiy.

Then Sulim asks (rhetorically) how Kharchevskiy can be silent, and how could he not know about the criminal activities of his deputy, of his cousin, or of his subordinates who extorted money from their subordinates.  He sums it up:

“It’s shameful and disgusting that in the space of twenty years they’ve turned an elite flying unit into an elite business for stuffing pockets, hiding all this under a mask of love for the Motherland and swearing on officer’s honor.”

Perhaps there’s some kind of behind-the-scenes three-way struggle between the Defense Ministry, Air Forces, and military prosecutors over premium pay extortion.  Or maybe it’s a negotiation to agree on how, and how far, to pursue the Lipetsk case and ones like it.

But the Defense Ministry seems paralyzed.  The unit checks ordered by Serdyukov rather improbably failed to turn up similar crimes in services or branches besides the Air Forces.  As the colonel quoted above says, the Defense Ministry may believe the scandal will die down after the new, higher military pay system goes into effect.

The cracks in the Air Forces’ stonewall on the Sulim case are only tiny fissures.  Those immediately involved in extorting money and pressuring officers at Lipetsk are finally in trouble with the law, but no one above that immediate level.  As an institution, the VVS appears unworried for now.

The prosecutors apparently can’t even name the officers they “hold accountable” in the VVS Glavkomat.  This isn’t to belittle Sergey Fridinskiy, his organization, and their efforts.  He and his prosecutors sometimes seem to be the only people looking honestly at the state of the Russian military.  There are clearly only so many battles they can fight. 

And preoccupied as they are with their own positions, skirmishes, and the fast-approaching election season, Russia’s political and government leaders aren’t likely to devote more time or attention to untangling what’s happened at Lipetsk.

Some Cracks in Air Forces’ Stonewall (Part I)

An update on the Igor Sulim case . . . on Tuesday, Moskovskiy komsomolets’ Olga Bozhyeva reported there may finally be some pressure on the alleged extortionists.  Colonel Kovalskiy and one Captain Artemyev decided (in fine Russian tradition) to go the hospital to avoid arrest, but a former 4th squadron chief of staff and Kovalskiy relative, Mikhail Zakurdayev was arrested on July 30. 

Bozhyeva wrote about related crimes at Lipetsk including forgery and extortion from civilian workers receiving premiums to the tune of 10 million rubles.

She reported that, despite the Defense Ministry’s promise to check all units, systemic extortion of premium pay was only found in Lipetsk, Sevastopol, Syzran, and Michurinsk.

The case at the Syzran generated some media attention starting on July 29.  The press reported the chief of the helicopter pilot training center, Colonel Nikolay Yartsev, and a former training regiment commander have allegedly been “taxing” pilots five percent of their premium pay, taking a total of four million rubles from 43 officers last year.  The Saratov garrison commander has opened a criminal case against them.

According to Bozhyeva, military prosecutors say the command in Lipetsk is still creating obstacles instead of establishing order in the ranks.  It transferred a primary witness and Sulim ally — Major Anton Smirnov — to Chelyabinsk.  Another officer whose wife complained in a letter to the president was removed from flight duty for “poor morale.” 

Bozhyeva ends with an excerpt from Sulim’s blog where he says officers are quizzed several times a day on the most obscure military topics.  Failing the tests justifies not paying their premium pay.

According to RIA Novosti, on Wednesday, Sergey Fridinskiy announced that unnamed VVS Glavkomat officers have been held to account for violating the rights of Lipetsk pilots facing extortion from their own commanders. 

The Main Military Prosecutor apparently responded to queries from Duma deputies interceding on behalf of Senior Lieutenant Sulim.  Fridinskiy indicated his prosecutors checked on Sulim’s complaint that his rights were violated during the initial [Air Forces] investigation. 

The head prosecutor claimed, as a result of these checks, several criminal cases were launched, and steps were taken to prevent further violations.  The GVP also announced that:

“The officials, including those in the VVS Glavkomat, who committed them have been brought to account on the GVP’s demand.”

The GVP found that, in the investigation, no active steps were taken, and conditions were created for continued illegal activity by dishonest officers.  They obstructed the investigation, and pressured officers prepared to cooperate with investigators.

According to RIA Novosti, Sulim’s main antagonists, Colonels Kovalskiy and Sidorenko, were removed from duty, but continued to have regular, unfettered access to the base.  But the pilots and navigators who gave evidence were removed from flight duty and given menial duties.  Several times the command’s given Sulim tasks without informing him to provide the basis for reprimands for not fulfilling assigned duties.

The Duma deputies who went to Fridinskiy think the Lipetsk command’s dragging out the case and using “administrative resources” to pressure those who spoke out.  The deputies believe the Tambov garrison military prosecutor isn’t interested in closing the case, and to them, this means higher-ranking officials will have to be made accountable.

More tomorrow.

Latest on Sulim and Premium Pay Extortion

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.

Soviet Fathers and Russian Sons

The story of Igor Sulim and the premium pay scandal is like the 19th century one about Russian society’s generation gap.  With liberals and nihilists reversed.

In Sulim’s story, the fathers are old senior and mid-grade officers who span Soviet and Russian worlds.  They have no problem taking whatever’s not nailed down.  The sons are post-Soviet junior officers, reared on the Internet, familiar with Western-style justice and rule-of-law, and ready to demand an end to corruption (that costs them money).

Perhaps your author reads too much into this.  Or just maybe there’s some truth in this description.  Let’s review some new details first.

The investigation into Senior Lieutenant Sulim’s accusations is a very slow roll.  Rolling the victims.  Here’s an update on the action (or inaction?).

Sulim posted his first video on May 31.  Gorod48.ru wrote about it.

Sulim explained why he felt he had to complain to Defense Minister Serdyukov and go public about corruption in his unit despite the military’s “corporate ethic” against it.  He said he exhausted other avenues and had no other resource at his disposal.  He didn’t intend to be a one-man campaign against corruption but he’s getting support, and hearing similar stories, from others.  And he thanks his fellow officers supporting him despite the difficulties and pressure they face.

He concludes speaking out is his civic duty.  Russians should unite around one idea and struggle together so Russia doesn’t lose its greatness and remains a great power.  And so the next generation doesn’t hate the current one for being silent and patient, believing nothing will ever change.  It’s not revolution or spilled blood he wants, but the path of civilized development.

On June 2, Moskovskiye novosti wrote that Sulim predicted a disciplinary reprimand and deprivation of his premium pay would come his way for going over his superior officers (and, in fact, both came pretty quickly).  The “army Navalnyy” and other officers are being pressured in every way by the authorities, and the entire Lipetsk center’s been deprived of premium pay to turn other officers against Sulim.  He was removed from flight status.  Public Chamber member Anatoliy Kucherena reported over half of 150 personnel he met said they were aware of the corrupt pay scheme at the base.

On June 3, Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye addressed the basic flaw in Serdyukov’s Order 400 and premium pay:

“Here is the misfortune — the essentially socialist army was not ready for these market relations.  Indoctrinated on the principle that everyone in the line is equal before the commander and in battle, before life and death, everyone to an equal degree responsible for his country and its security, officers became accustomed to distinguishing one from another only by stars on the shoulderboards and by position, where the difference in pay between lieutenant and colonel, a general even, was minimal:  a couple — four thousand rubles.  And here suddenly it became colossal — several times.  And, of course, when not everyone started receiving such premiums for the very same service-work, but just those chosen by still incomprehensible principles, a Bolshevist idea immediately arose — take it and divide it up.”

“But it was impossible not to understand to what the revolutionary introduction of market relations and big money for different categories of  servicemen could lead.  But has pay become a schism in combat units?  There’s no unambiguous answer.”

“What’s the result?  To what is the Senior Lieutenant Sulim phenomenon leading?  Most likely just to changes in the various fates of various officers and various military units.  But over some kind of time everything will remain as before.  If Orders No. 400, 400A and 155 aren’t be suspended and changed.  If from 1 January next year, the difference in pay and premiums for the very same service-work aren’t so monstrously striking.  It’s not worth destroying the monolithic army line with the almighty ruble.  This could bring serious consequences in a real battle.”

Sulim gave Ogonek an interview.  Sulim said his father was not happy about him going public, but Sulim stressed it was his own personal decision.  General-Major Sulim’s being pressed to keep his son’s mouth shut.

Ogonek asked Sulim if he isn’t afraid of sharing MVD Major Dymovskiy’s fate:

“His colleagues, as I understand it, didn’t support Dymovskiy.  There are more and more of us now.  If I had been alone, perhaps, I would have repeated his fate.  But my colleagues are supporting me so, everyone is ready to go only forward.”

By mid-June, Sulim’s antagonists — Colonels Kovalskiy and Sidorenko — were both relieved of duty, but his supporters — Majors Kubarev and Smirnov — had been hauled before an Air Forces attestation commission in Moscow, called cowards for not refusing to pay kickbacks, and all but told they would be transferred from their elite Lipetsk duty, according to Komsomolskaya pravda.  The paper points out Kubarev is a Su-34 pilot qualified for aerial refueling, and Smirnov was regiment’s top pilot last year.

In Moskovskiy komsomolets, Olga Bozhyeva wrote that Sulim’s reprimand was for violating the law’s prohibition on “discussing and criticizing the orders of a commander.”  The authorities apparently didn’t go after him for revealing some of the stupid things said and written by Deputy VVS CINC General-Major Viktor Bondarev.  Instead, they focused on his criticism of the Defense Ministry’s anticorruption orders posted on his blog.  For its part, MK posted new audio clips indicating that the even the local FSB is in on getting kickbacks at Lipetsk, and this didn’t happen just in the 3rd Squadron, but all over the center.  Bozhyeva asks, if this happens in an elite formation like Lipetsk, what happens in less prestigious units?

Senior Lieutenant Igor Sulim

There is lots on Sulim’s blog.  Most recently, he wrote about meeting with VVS Deputy CINC, General-Lieutenant Sadofyev, who asked him why he had to “create a scandal.”  Of course, Sulim’s made the point many times that he tried to go through the chain, through channels, and to do it without blood, and quietly.  But Sadofyev and the older generation really don’t get it. 

The new Russian generation of sons might make even congenitally pessimistic observers of Russia a little hopeful.  The authorities could be playing an ultimately futile game of whack a mole with an entire generation of  Dymovskiys and Matveyevs and Sulims.