Tag Archives: Nikolay Pankov

Update on Military Corruption, State Losses, and Crime

Main Military Prosecutor (GVP) Sergey Fridinskiy observed last week that it will only be possible to deal with corruption when not just the law enforcement organs, but also responsible officials in the military command hierarchy become involved in fighting it.

At last week’s coordinating conference on fighting corruption in the armed forces and other armed formations, Fridinskiy reported that, in January and February, military corruption cases increased by 10 percent over year ago figures, and material losses to the state in those first months of 2010 were 5 times greater than in 2009.  Inflation and an increased volume of arms purchases were cited as contributing to the spike. 

In 2009, corruption cases increased 5 percent in military units.  Fraud and forgery cases increased 50 percent, but misappropriation, embezzlement, bribery, misuse, and abuse of authority also grew. 

Fridinskiy said:

“For such crimes, 543 officers, including some higher officials, were convicted last year.  Last year military prosecutors uncovered nearly 7,500 violations of the law in this area, more than 2,000 responsible individuals were held to varying degrees of accountability in connection with 540 warnings delivered about unacceptable legal violations.”

Fridinskiy maintains that corruption doesn’t just have a negative economic impact, it also has an extremely demoralizing effect on military units.  He noted that the State Defense Order (GOZ) and the provision of social benefits to servicemen are trouble areas for military corruption.  He said:

“Placing a barrier against incidents of illegal and mismanaged expenditure of budget resources allocated for reequipping troops with new arms and military equipment, but also providing housing to servicemen, people discharged from military service, and family members is one of the complex, but principle tasks.”

Fridinskiy said a systemic fight against corruption was particularly important at a time of rising expenditures on the defense budget and rearmament.  He cited improved legislation, departmental regulations, reduced opportunities for misappropriation, guaranteed transparency and competition in tenders and state contracting as possible measures.  He continued:

“It’s also important to strengthen the role of control-auditing organs at all levels, to raise the level of inter-departmental  coordination, to conduct active propaganda work necessary to create an atmosphere where corruption is unacceptable.”

Fridinskiy reportedly proposed changing the existing GOZ system:

“We’re now working in the first place on putting systematic changes into the purchasing system so that prices will be down to earth, and not astronomical, so that it will be possible to organize this work in the bounds of current demand for purchases, and in order that not only the purchaser, but also those performing the work will bear responsibility for what they are doing.”

Representing the Defense Ministry, State Secretary and Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov reported that his department has created a special financial inspectorate sub-unit to exercise control on the use of its resources:

“Finance specialists, economists, mostly not from the armed forces, have been asked to join the financial inspectorate, and my presentation today concerned the effectiveness of the work of the financial inspectorate.  All the results that the financial inspectorate turn up are given to the organs of the military prosecutor.”

Recall, of course, that the Defense Ministry claimed it had a major anticorruption drive in progress this winter.  Maybe these are some of the results.

Attendees at GVP conference included representatives of the Federation Council, Duma, Military Collegium of the RF Supreme Court, Military-Investigative Directorate of the RF Prosecutor’s Investigative Committee, Ministry of Defense, MVD’s Main Command of Internal Troops, Ministry of Emergency Situations, and the FSB’s Border Service and Department [once Directorate?] of Military Counterintelligence.

Chief of the GVP’s Oversight Directorate Aleksandr Nikitin  repeated an earlier publicized statistic on a 16 percent reduction in military crime last year.  Nikitin credited widespread GVP preventative measures for the decline in crime.  He also noted the induction of more conscripts with higher education and supplementary performance pay for commanders as positive factors.  According to him, with the extra money, young commanders have started to pay more attention to ensuring order in their units.  Nikitin also says the overwhelming majority of the country’s military units generally function without crime or other incidents.

Military Police, Open Up!

On 12 March, Krasnaya zvezda profiled what might be the armed forces’ first military police department (OVP) in the Astrakhan military garrison, under the Navy’s Caspian Flotilla.

A Statute and Instruction cover the authority and operations of Russia’s military police (MPs).  The KZ article says their formal functions reinforcing discipline, providing security, conducting antiterrorism measures, and controlling traffic.

Russian military police are a long time coming and far from all are happy about the idea.  Instituting an MP force was first debated in the mid-1990s, but it didn’t happen.  The major sticking point was whether the military police would answer to, or be independent of, the Defense Ministry.

As recently as very late 2005, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov didn’t support the idea, but hardly a month later, after the notorious Sychev abuse case, then-President Putin and then-Defense Minister Ivanov came out for establishing a military police force, primarily to halt violent crime and abuse in the barracks.  But the concept fell by the wayside after several months of debate.

Just as suddenly as the thought of military police disappeared, it resurfaced last fall.  The force was to be established on 1 December with a strength of 5,000 personnel, and military police units were to work jointly with local military komendaturas [commandant’s offices] for the first year before subsuming them.

As in the 1990s, the idea encountered considerable opposition primarily from the RF Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy.  Lukin supports military police but only if they are independent of the Defense Ministry.  He has said military officials don’t need one more bureaucratic apparatus.  For his part, Fridinskiy said:

“We need to think clearly about all aspects of this issue, including those connected with legal and financial support. Moreover, where will we find such a number of qualified people?  In our country’s conditions, it’s not a certainty that military police will bring positive changes.  Where is the guarantee that we won’t get the very same excesses that they always talk about in connection with the [civilian] police–we aren’t selecting different people, it’s all the same contingent.”

Fridinskiy seems to be worried about military prosecutors tripping over MPs, or MPs fouling the work of his prosecutors.  He definitely doesn’t entertain the idea that they could work well together. 

There were press rumors over the winter that Defense Minister Serdyukov had decided to scrap the plan to institute MPs, but defense spokesmen denied the reports.  And at least the very first OVP has appeared and gotten some publicity.

The Astrakhan garrison’s OVP chief is an O-4 who once served as head of the security department for an armaments storage base, and chief of the garrison’s guardhouse.  His KZ interviewer says the OVP Chief knows all the ins and outs of garrison service firsthand.

The OVP Chief says the composition of an OVP is determined by the size, locations, and characteristics of the garrison it serves.  His OVP has a security and convoy section, investigation section, and an MP platoon, and he describes its initial capabilities as modest.

The security and convoy section guards and transports prisoners to the prosecutor’s and military-investigative organs, to disciplinary battalions, or investigative detention.  The investigative section prepares cases against soldiers accused of disciplinary offenses.  The MP platoon is responsible for patrol service, preventing crime, and maintaining discipline within the garrison.

The article indicates the OVP will spend a lot of its efforts on searching for AWOL soldiers.  The OVP Chief indicated that komendaturas and military commissariats haven’t been able to concentrate on this job in the past for lack of resources.  Russian AWOLs are known as ‘sochintsy’ from the abbreviation SOCh, or those ‘willfully leaving the unit.’

The Astrakhan OVP Chief recognizes that liaison and relations with unit commanders, local civilian law enforcement, and municipal authorities will be key for him to do his job.  More likely and problematic, however, is the possibility of crossed wires with military prosecutors or the local branch of the military-investigative directorate.  There are already lots of investigators out there investigating military incidents.  The investigative authority of the MPs was a contentious issue in the debate over them.

Russia’s 5,000-strong MP force is a modest start for a million-man army, and the success of the effort can’t be judged until it’s possible to see how many, or how few, OVPs are established.  Past initiatives in military law enforcement aren’t particularly encouraging.

For example, the 2005 effort to reestablish the guardhouse–administrative confinement–in order to do away with the army’s five disciplinary battalions (disbats)–the idea was abandoned when Serdyukov arrived because it required sending men guilty of more serious offenses into the civilian penal system where, unlike the disbat, they would get a permanent criminal record.  The guardhouse effort also went unrealized because it was costly; 98 old guardhouses needed to be rebuilt and 44 new ones were proposed.  And so the disbat lives.  Similarly, the Defense Ministry may discover it doesn’t want to pay to create a lot of OVPs.

Only time will tell how far or wide MPs will be implemented.

Defense Ministry Considering New Ranks?

An old story worthy of a slow Orthodox Christmas Day…. 

In mid-October, an unnamed source told Interfaks that the Russian military might introduce a new rank–either ‘brigade general’ or ‘senior colonel’–in between its colonel (O-6) and general officer ranks.  The story called forth a variety of official and semi-official reactions. 

According to one account, the Defense Ministry termed discussion of a new rank “premature.”  Other accounts said no decision on the introduction of a new rank had been made.  Others dismissed the story as pure rumor, saying the issue was not being worked in the Genshtab or Main Personnel Directorate.  One Genshtab source attributed the story to the imagination of journalists. 

The Interfaks source said the Defense Ministry might confer a new rank on the commanders of its 85 new permanently ready Ground Troops brigades and 33 air bases.  The new rank would supposedly “enhance their status,” and distinguish them from “ordinary” colonels. 

However, in late November, State-Secretary and Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said the issue of new ranks was speculation, and had not even been raised.  He said the current rank structure would remain, and denied that either ‘brigade general’ or ‘senior colonel’ would be introduced. 

Deputy Defense Minister Pankov Said No New Ranks

Who knows whether a new higher rank would be significant to Russian officers?  One new brigade commander said that, when you’re living month to month, higher pay is the best incentive and recognition.  The best commanders are already being ‘incentivized’ with Serdyukov’s premium pay.  But, in a couple years, all officers are supposed to share in a new and significantly higher base pay scheme.  

Several well-known defense commentators like the idea of a new rank to distinguish the new brigade commanders.  Anatoliy Tsyganok says he is more concerned about whether they will receive the education and training needed to become operational and operational-strategic commanders at a time of wholesale changes in the Russian military educational system. 

‘Brigade general’ or brigadier would fit well into the current Russian system, since a Russian one-star is a General-Major.  Moscow reportedly would not go with ‘senior colonel’ because it might look like Russia was following the lead of China, North Korea, and Vietnam. 

If this issue comes back around, it’s worth remembering how Pankov flatly denied it.