Category Archives: Military Housing

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from April 17-18, 2012 . . .

Militaryparitet.com provided a link to an interesting Livejournal site.  The latter’s apparently been scouring government tender offers, and located one worth 600 million rubles for work to upgrade Votkinsk for Yars ICBM production.

According to RIA Novosti, a Rosoboroneksport official says talks with China about selling the Su-35 are frozen because the PRC wants to buy only a limited number of the new fighters.

Interesting that France, Italy, etc. don’t use the same logic when Moscow talks about purchasing samples.

Vzglyad.ru covered the release of SIPRI’s global military expenditure report for 2011.  The U.S. spent 41 percent of the world’s total, China 8, Russia 4.

Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov talked to the Federation Council about military housing.  He told Senators 60,000 permanent and service apartments were ready to be occupied at the beginning of this year.  See TV Zvezda coverage.

At least for the camera, Pankov didn’t offer an explanation why such a large number were waiting to be occupied.

22nd Army Commander, General-Major Sergey Yudin’s traded his command for a staff job.  He’s now the Chief, OMU for the Western MD.  See Mil.ru.

Putin and the Army (Part II)

Putin Eating with Soldiers

Continuing with Prime Minister Putin’s latest pre-election article on the army . . . Russia Today published a translated version.

Describing the army’s “social dimension,” Putin says a modern army requires well-trained officers and soldiers on whom more demands can be placed.  And they, in turn, deserve pay commensurate with that of specialists and managers elsewhere in the economy.

Hence, the new pay system for officers this year which practically tripled their remuneration.

Putin mentions that military pensions were increased 1.6 times (60 percent), and he promises they will now increase annually by not less than 2 percent over inflation.

Retired or dismissed servicemen will get a “special certificate” good for further education or for retraining.

Then Putin tackles the painful military housing issue.  After recounting its history, he says, in 2008-2011, the army obtained or constructed 140,000 permanent and 46,000 service apartments.  But he admits:

“. . . despite the fact that the program turned out to be larger in scale than earlier planned, the problem still wasn’t resolved.”

He says the accounting of officers needing apartments was conducted poorly, org-shtat measures [dismissals] weren’t coordinated with the presentation of housing, and the situation has to be corrected.

Putin is, of course, alluding to the fact that maybe 30,000 or 80,000 of those 140,000 apartments the Defense Ministry acquired or built remain unoccupied.  But he’s not exactly tackling the problem head-on.

Putin says the “eternal” permanent and service apartment problems will finally be resolved in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

But in mid-December, in his “live broadcast,” Putin said his new deadlines were 2012 and 2013.  So, he’s just given himself an extra year on each.

Putin says the military’s mortgage savings program now has 180,000 participants, and 20,000 apartments have been acquired through it.

He also notes that regions and municipalities won’t have broken down military towns and infrastructure foisted upon them.

Next, manning. 

Putin gives the familiar figures–there are 220,000 officers and 186,000 sergeants and soldiers who now serve on contracts.  Over five years, the army will try to recruit 50,000 professional soldiers each year. 

Selection, Putin says, will be strict, and contractees will be trained in special centers and sergeant schools.

In the reported one-million-man Russian Armed Forces, 700,000 personnel will be professionals by 2017.  Conscripts will be reduced to 145,000 by 2020.

Putin says the mixed contract-conscript system of manning used for quite some time was just a compromise because Russia couldn’t afford an all-volunteer army.

However, politicians and generals always extolled the mixed system because it retained a universal obligation (at least theoretically) and kept the military from becoming “mercenaries.”

Putin endorses military police and priests in the ranks to keep order among remaining conscripts.  He also promises those who serve as draftees assistance with education and preferences in entering the government service.

The Prime Minister admits Russia lacks a concept for its national military reserve system, and developing one is a near-term task.

Although the course is set for a professional contract army, Putin still wants young men to prepare for service.  So don’t forget about military-patriotic indoctrination, military-applied sports, and DOSAAF.

And Putin indicates he supports Deputy PM Dmitriy Rogozin’s proposal for a Volunteer Movement of the National Front in Support of the Army, Navy, and OPK.

Part III will be the final five pages on the OPK.

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.

Another Angle on Apartments

Apartment Owners Say No to Putin (Photo: Novyy region -- Yekaterinburg)

Here’s a different angle on why finished military apartments are unoccupied.  Last week Novyy region told the story of how apartments for military men in Yekaterinburg got tangled up with apartments for private buyers, leaving the latter standing in front of a huge sign saying “No to Putin!” and vowing not to vote for him on March 4.

The tale goes like this.  In 2005, the Defense Ministry engaged the Megapolis construction-investment company to build a 254-unit apartment building for military unit 61207, which looks to be a nearby Railroad Troops brigade. 

The building was supposed to be ready in 2008, but construction dragged out, reportedly as a result of rising costs.  To complete its work, Megapolis said it needed to sell some of the apartments which it did.  These civilian owners, however, have keys to apartments they can’t occupy.

As a result of the dispute with the company, the Defense Ministry has refused to sign commissioning papers for the building, or turn on the electricity and gas.  The private owners have appealed for help at every possible level, and are now demanding that Defense Minister Serdyukov and Prime Minister Putin intervene.  In a statement to the media, the frustrated owners said:

“We shareholders, as consumers, legally paid for our apartments several years ago.  We don’t have any relationship to the Defense Ministry or the Megapolis company, but because of their dispute we can’t get into our own homes.”

“It seems the building was fully constructed in December 2011, live it up, rejoice.  But the bureaucratic procrastination arises.  That is the system developed, among others, by Vladimir Putin simply doesn’t want to work for the good of the people.  So the question arises — why should we vote for Putin?”

This scenario of Defense Ministry contractors selling some apartments on the open market has produced similar confrontations in several cities.

No word on how the servicemen are faring in the wait for their apartments.  Presumably they’ve remained in whatever service housing they had, and can’t be dismissed until they take delivery of their apartments.

Why They’re Empty

Well, mostly empty.  To its credit, Defense Ministry daily Krasnaya zvezda has tackled the issue of why Russian servicemen aren’t racing to take ownership and occupy permanent apartments offered to them.

KZ looked at two major military housing projects outside St. Petersburg — Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha — which between them have over 100 buildings and almost 9,000 apartments.  The paper says only 40 percent of these apartments have been accepted, and only 20 percent occupied.

Slavyanka South and Osinovaya Roshcha North of St. Petersburg

Slavyanka’s construction was complete one year ago, but its streets are empty and one very rarely sees pedestrians.  Its school just opened, but residents are still waiting for day care and have to drive preschool children elsewhere.  The builders claim there are relatively few defects, and they are repaired quickly.

A Street in Slavyanka Last March

Osinovaya Roshcha was built on Defense Ministry land — a former military town, and its apartments were turned over about six months ago.  Like Slavyanka, the dwellings in this development don’t suffer from too many problems.
 
KZ says now on average about 150 apartments are being accepted every week in Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha.  But this is still a slow pace.  Servicemen aren’t in a hurry to relocate because of the undeveloped infrastructure in both locations. 
 
There is no walking access to grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, or bank branches.  The nonresidential first floors of buildings haven’t been sold or leased to businesses.  Neither the developer nor rayon administration can make arrangements for these commercial spaces because the property belongs to the Defense Ministry.
 
In Osinovaya Roshcha, it’s already clear there will be a major parking problem once the mikrorayon is fully settled.  Some parking was planned but hasn’t been built.  Also, the area depends on narrow two-lane Priozerskoye shosse as a main road.
 
KZ says the biggest headache in Osinovaya Roshcha, however, are nonworking elevators.  Some buildings are 17 stories, and current residents can count on having an operational elevator only one day per week.  The paper describes a Catch-22.  People don’t move in because elevators aren’t working, but there aren’t enough residents there to pay communal fees to cover the work of crews who fix the elevators.
 
The wait for day care centers keeps many families from moving.  They are supposed to open this month in Osinovaya Roshcha.  Older kids go to school in two shifts at an old building while they wait for a new one. 
 

KZ sums up:

“Judging by everything, people don’t intend to give up distant garrisons until life in the new mikrorayony is smoothed out and all essential infrastructure develops.” 

All in all, Internet photos seem to support KZ’s description of Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha as generally well-constructed, livable communities.  
 

A Promise That Can’t Be Kept

Shevtsova Holds the Military Housing Portfolio

Yesterday a number of media sources picked up an Interfaks story in which a Defense Ministry source alleges the military’s program of permanent housing construction for servicemen has broken down because a whopping 78,000 new apartments remain unoccupied. 

Yes, that’s not 33,000 as announced a couple weeks ago, but a reported 78,000.

Moreover, the Interfaks source says 30,000 service apartments are currently in a dilapidated condition.

The source concludes:

“It’s possible to state that the program to provide service housing to servicemen before the end of 2012 will collapse.”

The Interfaks interlocutor adds that inside the Defense Ministry they’re currently trying to determine who’s to blame for the housing mess.

Actually, the service housing deadline is now the end of 2013 according to Prime Minister Putin.  The permanent apartment suspense is the end of 2012.  But perhaps these are mere details.  The larger point is that the entire effort to furnish servicemen — active and retired — with apartments owed them under the law looks like it’s set to fail next year.

On the heels of yesterday’s very significant stat, Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova talked to ITAR-TASS today about putting off permanent apartments for servicemen and retirees until 2013.  She also said the 134,000 apartments (that both Putin and Defense Minister Serdyukov have cited) acquired between 2009 and 2011 is actually 116,000 plus 18,000 to be acquired in the next three days (by the end of 2011)!

Bottom line:  The political leadership’s 2010 and 2012 military housing promises weren’t kept.  The 2012 and 2013 promises can’t be kept given severe problems with apartments already built and rejected by military men.  In sum, the military apartment imbroglio may introduce its share of complications into Prime Minister Putin’s plan to return to the Kremlin in the spring. 

Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part II)

After talking GOZ-2011 and contracting with OPK enterprises, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov fielded Rossiyskaya gazeta questions on pay, military sanatorium-resort (i.e. vacation) benefits, apartments, contractees, opposition to reforms, and MPs.

He said increased pay will more than offset the loss of vacation benefits.

The military will have acquired 135,000 apartments by the end of 2011.  It will obtain another 25,000 next year according to Serdyukov.

He rejected any suggestion officers were deceived or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “set up” when it came to the original 2010 and 2012 deadlines for solving permanent and service apartment problems:

“No one was deceived.  You know the number of those without apartments in the army sharply increased after the transition of the Armed Forces to a new profile began.  The dismissal of servicemen accompanied this process.  Unfortunately, the registration of those needing housing was conducted badly.”

“Precisely because of this, the lists for the receipt of housing rose from 70 thousand to 170 thousand.  It’s understandable that a hundred thousand increase could in no way be “inserted” into the bounds of 2010.”

On contractees, Serdyukov said there will be 180,000 in 2012, and 50,000 will be added each year until the number reaches 425,000 in 2017.  He added the optimal ratio, in his view, is 80 percent contractees to 20 percent conscripts.  But, if financing allowed, he’d go to 90-10.  Conscripts will serve primarily as infantrymen in motorized rifle brigades where less technical skill is required.

Asked the usual question on resistance to his steps to renew the army, Serdyukov said reforms weren’t all to his credit; they were devised mainly in the Defense Ministry by uniformed officers.  He said he can’t say there was strong resistance but rather misunderstanding about changes being made.  Without prompting, Serdyukov identified personnel downsizing, dismissals, and officers placed outside the shtat [TO&E] as sources of opposition to his work.

Serdyukov claimed there would be fewer inquiries from Duma deputies if they visited units instead of relying on newspaper articles and information from the Internet.

Finally, for the first half of his interview, Serdyukov talked about launching Russia’s military police.  First, the MP garrison service will stand up, followed by disciplinary battalions and the military automobile inspectorate.  Troops from line units will no longer guard cargoes or bases, he said.  MPs will be responsible for order in garrisons.  He concluded:

“In my view, this will bring real changes in barracks life, it will fight barracks hooliganism.”

Serdyukov would say dedovshchina doesn’t exist, and he wouldn’t bring himself to say simply barracks violence.  But, in essence, he acknowledges that “real changes” in the barracks are needed. 

He said a Main Directorate of Military Police has been created and General-Lieutenant Surovikin will head it.  The MPs will have several thousand specially trained personnel, including possibly some officers now outside the shtat.

Somebody Finally Went There

Komsomolskaya pravda's Viktor Baranets

Yes, somebody finally went to a very obvious place — during this week’s “live broadcast,” Viktor Baranets called Vladimir Putin on his failure to solve the military housing problem.  You may recall this recent post lamented Putin’s “free pass” on the unfulfilled promise of apartments for servicemen.

Gov.ru printed the transcript of Putin’s on-air session with reporters.  In a friendly manner, Baranets warned Putin he was about to ask an uncomfortable question.  And he couched his question like this:

“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin many times said to the army and Russia that the housing problem for dismissed servicemen would be resolved by 2010.  The problem is not resolved.  Not one minister has apologized to the dozens of essentially deceived people, and you have not apologized.”

“Don’t you believe it’s necessary to give some apologies to the people and tell them the honest, objective time when this problem will really be resolved?”

Baranets continues:

“I’m addressing you as a candidate for Russian Federation President.”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, it’s perfectly obvious that a number of ministers have failed in their work in strategic areas.  This concerns the economy, and health care, and the army.  Nevertheless, Vladimir Vladimirovich, you still to this time haven’t given a very sharp critical evaluation of the work of these ministers.  Why are you afraid to replace them?”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, if you will dispose of the untalented and throw talented, principled ministers into the battle, you can believe, the people will be drawn to you, reforms will go forward.”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am finishing my long speech and I want to tell you, you’ve already been told many times, why don’t you replace talentless, unprincipled ministers, who, by the way, are deceiving you.  They have really set you up when you talked about how the problem for housing the dismissed would be resolved.  They set you up.  This is a state crime, not just a crime against you, Vladimir Vladimirovich.  You need to make conclusions from this.”

“But if you have problems with selecting personnel, turn to us, we will help, including even me.”

Vladimir Putin Answers Baranets

After a little banter, Putin got to his answer.
 
Putin said his predecessor didn’t deal with the military housing problem, and, starting with those dismissed in the 1990s, the line for apartments just grew. 
 
His administration counted 70,000 ex-servicemen in need of housing, and handed out 111,000 apartments in 2008-2010.  But, said Putin, the Defense Ministry undercounted, and there were actually 150,000 men in the housing queue.
 
According to the Prime Minister, even though funds were available, the construction industry just didn’t have the capacity to build faster. 
 
In 2008, the dismissal of excess officers from the Armed Forces and the global financial crisis made housing military men more difficult.
 
But Putin concluded he still thinks the permanent apartment problem will be resolved by the end of 2012, and service apartment problem a year later.  He noted, however, that the line may get longer since there’s an issue of servicemen still waiting in municipal housing queues.
 
Then Putin turned to Baranets’ point about ministers.  Putin said he didn’t want to make them scapegoats since he is ultimately responsible, and cadre reshuffles mean lost months of work.  He said he prefers to straighten ministers out so they avoid mistakes.  Putin ended his answer by saying a time for renewing the government line-up is coming, and this will happen.
 
KP’s video of the Q and A is hereTV Zvezda’s is on Mil.ru.
 
So Putin’s defense against Baranets’ accusations of failure on the military housing problem boils down to claiming it’s a hard issue.  If able to follow up, Baranets might have asked why the Defense Ministry didn’t accurately figure the number of apartments needed or investigate the chances of getting them from Russia’s housing market.  Ultimately, this little repartee between once-and-future president and military correspondent is a small sign of how fear of Vladimir Putin has diminished.  It’s hard to imagine the same exchange five years ago.  Perhaps even five months ago.
 

Military Apartments Becoming an Issue

First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov

Wednesday First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov criticized a Primorskiy Kray deputy governor for the low quality of new housing for military men in Vladivostok’s Snegovaya Pad microrayon.  Shuvalov said the housing is cold, damp, and moldy.  According to RIA Novosti, Shuvalov heard complaints from a worker at Dalpribor, and rerouted his visit to inspect his building.

Shuvalov said:

“The builders have performed badly — cold air blows from the window frames and receptacles, from the registers of the radiator mountings.  The plastic windows throughout the apartment constantly “cry,” the wall in one of the rooms was quickly covered with mold.  The temperature in the apartment didn’t rise above 9ºC  degrees (48ºF).”

The press agency added that the walls of the apartment block’s service floor are cracked.

Shuvalov said the worker’s complaints are fully justified.  The kray’s deputy governor promised, of course, to sort out the situation.  But Shuvalov concluded the quality of completed construction needs a serious look, and added it’s impermissible that residents of new housing should have to make repairs.

Unusually frank comments from an unexpected source.  But it’s interesting Shuvalov didn’t hear other serious complaints about “Snegpa” . . . the files are full of 34 press articles about the microrayon’s problems in the past three years, though there hasn’t been time to write on them.  Most articles describe how this military housing was erected on Defense Ministry property, a former naval arms depot which exploded in 1992, without properly clearing and cleaning up old munitions and hazardous substances.

Newsru.com pointed this out.  Snegpa, it says, is a densely populated area of 50,000 retired and active servicemen and family members that has only one daycare (детсад) facility and one secondary school.  NVO (Sergey Konovalov) has written that Snegpa is one place where servicemen are refusing proferred apartments.

NVO doesn’t think anyone will be held responsible for the military housing mess.  Interesting that Shuvalov was willing to blame a regional official, but not fellow Team Putin member Defense Minister Serdyukov and his deputies. 

NVO also cited General Staff Chief Makarov at the OP on housing numbers.  He said, by the end of 2011, the military will have obtained 134,700 apartments for the military since 2009, but there were still 63,800 in line on October 1.

Colonel Sergey Zavarzin, writing for KP, counted a Defense Ministry claim of 175,600 obtained, or due to be, between 2009 and the end of 2012.  That number would be enough to close out the permanent apartment problem, if the military’s other numbers are accurate.  And only if ex-military men are actually willing to move their families into them.

According to ITAR-TASS, President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin addressed military apartments at last weekend’s United Russia conclave.  The former reiterated his refusal to put servicemen out of the army without presenting them with permanent housing, if they are entitled to it (an easy call since it remains illegal to do so, and the military can also just warehouse them outside the org-shtadt)

Putin said the military housing program has to be seen through to the end:

“But, to this time, there are still many violations and much callousness, and these problems have to be brought to zero, to be fully eradicated.”

Pardon if these words have appeared previously, but the Russian approach toward military housing has been and is still a Soviet one — numerical targets, “storming,” poor quality, no life cycle or support planning, etc.

More on the Unwanted Apartments

Microrayon for Ex-Servicemen (photo: Podolsk.ru)

A Defense Ministry source tells Interfaks nearly 800 former officers and generals who served in the military’s central command and control organs are suing the department over its failure to allocate them housing in Moscow.

The news agency’s source says these men have a right to apartments in Moscow and are refusing the Defense Ministry’s offer of housing in the capital’s suburbs.  He says new buildings in Moscow Oblast lack infrastructure, schools, and medical services, and it’s difficult to find work. 

In particular, he notes more than 21,000 apartments are being finished in the close-in suburbs of Podolsk and Balashikha.  But many remain unoccupied.  The military department decided to build housing there in 2008 because the cost per square meter was 35,000 rubles — less than half the prevailing cost in Moscow.

The agency’s interlocutor says, in Podolsk, the military is building an entire microrayon with more than 14,000 apartments, and Balashikha will have more than 7,000.

President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov Toured Podolsk Military Housing in January

Interfaks added that Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova, who holds the housing portfolio, acknowledged in September that there are 8,000 officers awaiting housing in Moscow, and indicated apartment blocks might be erected on Defense Ministry property in the city.  At the time, she also suggested that many of those who wanted apartments sooner were accepting ones in the nearby suburbs. 

Exactly a year ago, Defense Minister Serdyukov said the military could not afford to, and would not provide servicemen permanent apartments in Moscow, according to RIA NovostiMoskovskiy komsomolets at the time noted that the Defense Minister’s order clearly contradicted the Law “On the Status of Servicemen.”  As this NVO editorial indicates, Shevtsova’s September statements on Moscow housing came in the context of the flap over 160 generals and colonels who retired, probably in the hope of privatizing a service apartment, rather than obey orders to rotate to duties outside the capital.