Tag Archives: Sergey Fridinskiy

More Drugs, Extremism in the Army

According to ITAR-TASS, Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy today warned colleagues at an inter-governmental meeting on military-patriotic indoctrination that anti-drug measures among minors are not having the intended effect, and: 

“Based on last year’s results, the growth of crime connected with illegal trade in narcotic and dangerous substances in the troops (of all power structures) exceeded 70 percent.” 

For his part, Deputy Defense Minister, State Secretary Nikolay Pankov agreed that drug-addicted youth pose a threat not just to the army, but the whole country.  He added: 

“The ‘drug addiction’ diagnosis is becoming customary for draft commissions.” 

At the Draft Board (photo: Newsru.com)

And as if on cue, today from a Ural region draftee assembly point in Yegorshino came the story of 100 young men who arrived recently high on marijuana in hopes of being deferred from conscript service for dependence on narcotics. 

The voyenkomat reported nothing like 100 guys showing up before the draft board in a state of ‘narcotic intoxication’ has previously happened. 

A voyenkomat representative said: 

“There’s never been such a thing, we are sure this is a particular feature of the current draft.  The young guys intentionally used narcotics in order not to end up in the army.” 

According to Newsru.com, a State Narcotics Control officer for Sverdlovsk Oblast is investigating the ‘stoners’ who came from Nizhniy Tagil, Yekaterinburg, and Pervouralsk.  The voyenkomat said these men would be returned to their towns for additional medical observation and rehabilitation. 

ITAR-TASS reported more of Pankov’s comments on a different subject.  He said: 

“In Russia, nearly 150 extremist youth groups are active, the participants in them live mainly in big cities.” 

Pankov didn’t rule out that young extremists could spread from large cities to small towns and lightly populated areas, saying: 

“This is highly probable.  All this comes into military collectives and leads to the growth of nonregulation relations, so-called ‘dedovshchina.'”  

This is just one reason the army’s always preferred country boys from the ‘sticks’ rather than city guys.

The topics of drugs and nationalism in the army, if not taboo outright, have been little discussed.  Some honest talk about these problems might be the first step in solving them.

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.

Military Housing-Corruption Nexus

Grani.ru has connected the dots between–on the one hand–former Defense Ministry housing chief General-Colonel Filippov’s sudden retirement on health grounds late in triumphant 2009 just as military men were receiving more than 45,000 apartments, and–on the other hand–GVP Sergey Fridinskiy’s announcement yesterday that military housing is one of the three largest military corruption problems and that an SU-155 affiliate is under investigation for not fulfilling state contracts to provide apartments to Defense Ministry servicemen. 

But hold this thought for a moment.  First, remember the Defense Ministry’s end-of-year housing claims:

“The RF Defense Ministry, continuing implementation of decisions of the country’s leadership regarding providing servicemen permanent housing, planned in the course of 2009 to acquire from all sources 45,400 apartments.  Updated data on last year’s results allows us to talk about overfulfillment of the planned tasks.”

The Defense Ministry’s Press-Service and Information Directorate went on to specify:  45,614 permanent apartments, of which the Defense Ministry built 5,117, bought 19,147, and used GZhS for 7,050.  Another 14,300 were obtained from other sources, specifically through investment contracts and resettling apartments [i.e. moving new residents into existing Defense Ministry apartments].

From what Fridinskiy said in his interview yesterday, Grani.ru concludes that Filippov was dismissed for violating laws concerning housing for servicemen, including signing occupancy documents for nonexistent apartment blocks:

“Filippov signed an order for the distribution of apartments in eight buildings in the Moscow suburb of Chekhov.  However these buildings exist only on paper.  Their construction isn’t really under way, having stopped at the foundation.  The Defense Ministry contract was grossly violated by the contracting firm.”

Here’s what Fridinskiy said:

“…instances of the distribution of living space in buildings which not only haven’t been put into use, but actually aren’t even built, are being brought to us.  We’re investigating violations in housing construction for servicemen in Chekhov, where through the fault of the contractor ZAO ‘Moscow Oblast Investment-Construction Company,’ which is part of ZAO ‘SU-155,’ not one of 8 signed state contracts has been fulfilled.  Construction of apartment buildings to this point ranges in states from ‘installing pilings’–simply put,  digging the foundation–to ‘framing the building.’  Despite this, in August 2009, former Defense Ministry chief of housing and installations, Deputy RF Defense Minister General-Colonel Filippov approved the plan for distributing apartments to servicemen in these, if you’ll permit me to say, buildings.”

Were the ‘apartments’ in these 8 unfinished ‘buildings’ counted as part of the 45,614 supposedly acquired in 2009?  Of the 14,300 supposedly obtained through other means, including investment contracts?  Doesn’t look like these contracts panned out too well.  One wonders how much farther the Defense Ministry’s claim of success in meeting Putin’s task will unravel.  As it was storming to try and finish late in the year, many respected sources claimed something less than 30,000 apartments had actually been acquired.

But a scapegoat has been found in Filippov; he can take any other blame that needs to be assigned.  Perhaps he can borrow General-Colonel Vlasov’s sidearm.

Grani.ru reminds that Fridinskiy didn’t say anything about charges against Filippov; he could get off with just a scare.  But, with Filippov’s signature, state funds could move along the chain to the contracting firm.  So billions are thrown at military housing, but the problem is never solved.  Now one of Serdyukov’s Petersburg comrades is responsible for housing, but rather than say anything about how he plans to clean up the housing and installation service, he just had polite words to say about his predecessor.

Fridinskiy’s Latest Military Corruption Report

Sergey Fridinskiy (photo: photoxpress)

An Interfaks reporter has interviewed Main Military Prosecutor (GVP) Sergey Fridinskiy for the pages of today’s Izvestiya

Not surprisingly, Fridinskiy didn’t really bite when asked if the GVP had any hand in the recent Defense Ministry cadre ‘revolution.’  He said the GVP keeps its hands on its part [i.e. law enforcement]. 

Fridinskiy says the GVP monitored the implementation of the ‘new profile.’  In some places, it went more or less normally, but in others, it got out of hand and there were mass violations of servicemen’s rights, like putting 600 men in a barracks for 300.  So the prosecutor reacts to such a situation.  Fridinskiy said the GVP gave quarterly reports on violations to the Defense Minister. 

Asked about the military’s involvement in the tragic ‘Lame Horse’ club fire in Perm, Fridinskiy said the chief and chief engineer of the KECh which was responsible for the property were aware of what was going on there and might have been getting a cut, but the fact that they allowed gross fire safety violations resulting in a tragedy with many victims is what resulted in the investigation and criminal case against them.  He indicated the KECh chief died in the fire, and they are investigating whether the chief engineer got bribes.  Fridinskiy noted other responsible military officials in the district got disciplinary punishment. 

On the ‘Steppe’ garrison boiler house case, Fridinskiy revealed that state inspectors looked at it in May or June and declared it unfit for use, but the locals did cosmetic repairs and used it anyway.  He says other districts and garrisons, especially Kostroma, are being inspected.  He believes old equipment is largely to blame, but it’s up to the GVP to force people to do their jobs and not let the situation reach the point of an accident. 

Fridinskiy termed the general crime situation in the armed forces as stable, with some favorable points.  Registered offenses were down 16 percent in 2009 against the year before.  The numbers of grievous and especially grievous crimes were down.  These figures were for all uniformed power ministries, not just the armed forces.  Dedovshchina looked like it would continue a significant decline, but actually ended up increasing by 2 percent.

Asked to address the reported interethnic Baltic Fleet incident, involving Slavs and Caucasians, Fridinskiy said:

“As a rule, we’re talking not about interethnic fights, but interpersonal conflicts.  For us it’s just accepted:  if a Slav gives it to another Slav based on appearance, then this is simply a fight.  But if the very same thing happens with a Caucasian participating, then another hue appears here, even though the fight is based, as a rule, on a normal everyday situation.  However taking into account the mentality of southerners, who’re inclined to stick together, a fight between two guys grows into a group fight, and the appearance of an interethnic conflict comes up.  When the affair goes to criminal responsibility for nonregulation relations, an ethnic motive doesn’t figure in.  But rumors continue to pressurize the circumstances.”

Fridinskiy claims that in the group of ‘barracks hooligans’ in the Kaliningrad garrison there were both North Caucasians and Slavs [but were they part of the same group or in different groups?].  He said 8 were charged in the incident, and some have already been convicted.

Asked about crime among higher officers, Fridinskiy says malfeasance, exceeding authority, and fraud were the biggest offenses.  Eight generals [probably from all power ministries] were convicted and six got prison terms from 3 to 5 years.  He said the theft of state money was greatest in the GOZ, RDT&E, and housing programs.  He indicates he’s investigating 8 cases where apartments didn’t get built by the SU-155 construction firm, despite the fact there were state contracts in place for them.

Fridinskiy seems to indicate he registered 1,500 crimes among senior officers in 2009 [as of late October, he had this number at a little less than 900].

As for how to fix the crime situation in the military, Fridinskiy doesn’t offer much advice beyond using the law.  Of course, that gives him lots of business.