Government Hour (Part I)

Yesterday Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov appeared for his latest “government hour” to discuss the state of Russia’s defenses with parliamentarians.  One gets the sense his opponents were more on the offense this time than in the past.

The KPRF pushed to have his Duma meeting opened to the press, but its motion failed.  The faction noted Serdyukov’s yet to have an open session.  It’s first deputy chairman, Sergey Reshulskiy said:

“In all the previous closed ‘government hours,’ I never once heard and no one has proven to me that we are discussing anything secret here.”

“What will he [Serdyukov] tell us?  That they are supplying ‘Mistral’ without its full equipment?  This isn’t a secret.  That servicemen sent into retirement aren’t getting housing, this isn’t a secret either.”

Faction member Vladimir Fedotkin said:

“The West knows a hundred times better than we deputies what’s being created in our army.”

United Russia supporters thought Serdyukov’s answers exhaustive, but others were dissatisfied with his presentation.  Reshulskiy said he heard nothing concrete in Serdyukov’s statements about the recent depot explosions, fulfilling the GOZ, or resettling servicemen from the far north.

LDPR member Sergey Ivanov [not to be confused with Serdyukov’s predecessor] said he had counted on having a different conversation with the Defense Minister, and Serdyukov answered questions like a partisan politician.  Ivanov continued:

“In particular, Serdyukov didn’t give any concrete answer why Russia is buying ‘Mistral’ helicopter carriers from France and where they will be deployed.”

Just Russia’s Svetlana Goryacheva said her party “heard very sad things:  everything’s either not completely financed, not fulfilled, not completely fulfilled.  The Gosoboronzakaz is practically broken.”

Serdyukov apparently called the 102nd Arsenal disaster in Udmurtia a “remnant” of the Soviet era.  The munitions located there arrived during the early 1990s pullout from Germany and Hungary.  He blamed the “human factor” as well as “inadequate storage capabilities.”

Serdyukov also reportedly denied any retaliation against the Lipetsk pilots who blew the whistle on premium pay extortion at the base.  He said the scandal would not reflect on them in any way, and they would continue to serve.

The Defense Minister said Russia won’t be buying German Leopard tanks [recall Postnikov’s suggestion that they might be cheaper than a reworked T-72].  Nor is NATO standardization in the offing.

After the ‘government hour,’ United Russia’s Igor Barinov, deputy chairman of the Duma defense committee, told the press the Mistral deal is complete except for formalities, but most deputies believe buying the ships is a mistake:

“I myself am a little skeptical about the possibilities for combat employment of these types of weapons.”

Nakanune.ru had good coverage of the session.  It’s description said problems with the GOZ were front and center.  When Serdyukov explained how officials and factory directors were punished for breaking the GOZ, several deputies suggested that Serdyukov should resign if his qualifications don’t enable him to solve defense production problems.

Barinov also addressed this saying:

“I won’t cite concrete figures, since this could be secret information, but it’s possible to call the situation lamentable.”

Look for Part II tomorrow.

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