Senior Lieutenant Igor Igoryevich Sulim joins the ranks of new media whistleblowers (most recently, MVD Majors Matveyev and Dymovskiy).
This 24-year-old senior flight-instructor of the Air Forces’ elite 4th Combat Employment and Retraining Center in Lipetsk has gone public complaining of corruption, specifically his commander’s systematic extortion of premium pay from his subordinates.
Sulim made the charges in an open letter to Defense Minister Serdyukov, Investigative Committee Chairman Bastrykin, and VVS CINC General-Colonel Zelin, which he also placed on the Internet.
Recall that premium pay – aka Order No. 400 or 400-A – is the stopgap measure Serdyukov instituted early in his tenure to raise military pay [for the best performers] until a new, higher pay system could be introduced starting next year. Premium pay’s allowed the officers to double, triple, or even quadruple their pay, but it’s also been plagued by problems and scandals from the very beginning.
According to Sulim, every month when officers receive their premium pay, they have to give their commander, Colonel Sidorenko, a specific sum. In Sulim’s case, 13,600 rubles every month.
Life.ru printed excerpts from Sulim’s letter:
“In January of last year, Colonel Kovalskiy got unofficial information on the amounts servicemen needed to hand over after getting their premiums to each sub-unit commander. Commanders couldn’t refuse this because all were threatened with dismissal during requalification [pereattestatsiya].”
Sulim says every month officers were picked to collect the money which went to Colonel Sidorenko.
“Every month from 140 to 185 thousand rubles were collected from sub-units. I know that just from the four squadrons of unit 62632-A nearly 7 million rubles were collected in a year.”
“I tried to go to the Tambov Garrison Military Prosecutor. But evidently Colonel Kovalskiy has good connections there because the commander [Sidorenko] became aware immediately about all those who want to get out from under the yoke of extortion. And all our efforts led to the start of an investigation into the facts of slander against the unit commander.”
And Sulim’s command took him off flight status in retaliation.
Now a host of investigators — from the VVS, the SK, prosecutors — have flocked to check out Sulim and his allegations.
Where are we on this one?
It may take a while to play out. If experience is a guide, young whistleblower Sulim may become target rather than hero of the story. The Russian military [political, or bureaucratic] system doesn’t care much for those “sweep dirt out of the izba.”
Uncontained by the Defense Ministry, this latest scandal could undercut the much-heralded launch of the new pay system next year. The draft law due for Duma consideration provides for continuing premium pay.
Extortion and theft damaged efforts to use combat pay as a motivator for service during the second Chechen war. There have always been problems with commanders and finance officers handling pay in cash.
Commanders have used control of cash as a mechanism of control over their subordinates, as a zona-type obshchak for meeting unit needs or meting out a rough social justice, or, at worst, as a source of personal enrichment. For some time, the military’s talked about electronic funds transfer to avoid pay-related criminal activity.
And Igor Igoryevich Sulim is apparently not just any young pilot. His father is General-Major Igor Vadimovich Sulim, just relieved of duty in early March as Chief of the VVS’ Directorate of Frontal and Army Aviation. It’s entirely possible that this personnel action has some connection to his son and his revelations, or vice versa.
Finally, the national angle to the Sulim story. And what will it, like many other corruption stories, say about Russia’s national struggle against corruption (if there really is one)?