The story of Igor Sulim and the premium pay scandal is like the 19th century one about Russian society’s generation gap. With liberals and nihilists reversed.
In Sulim’s story, the fathers are old senior and mid-grade officers who span Soviet and Russian worlds. They have no problem taking whatever’s not nailed down. The sons are post-Soviet junior officers, reared on the Internet, familiar with Western-style justice and rule-of-law, and ready to demand an end to corruption (that costs them money).
Perhaps your author reads too much into this. Or just maybe there’s some truth in this description. Let’s review some new details first.
The investigation into Senior Lieutenant Sulim’s accusations is a very slow roll. Rolling the victims. Here’s an update on the action (or inaction?).
Sulim posted his first video on May 31. Gorod48.ru wrote about it.
Sulim explained why he felt he had to complain to Defense Minister Serdyukov and go public about corruption in his unit despite the military’s “corporate ethic” against it. He said he exhausted other avenues and had no other resource at his disposal. He didn’t intend to be a one-man campaign against corruption but he’s getting support, and hearing similar stories, from others. And he thanks his fellow officers supporting him despite the difficulties and pressure they face.
He concludes speaking out is his civic duty. Russians should unite around one idea and struggle together so Russia doesn’t lose its greatness and remains a great power. And so the next generation doesn’t hate the current one for being silent and patient, believing nothing will ever change. It’s not revolution or spilled blood he wants, but the path of civilized development.
On June 2, Moskovskiye novosti wrote that Sulim predicted a disciplinary reprimand and deprivation of his premium pay would come his way for going over his superior officers (and, in fact, both came pretty quickly). The “army Navalnyy” and other officers are being pressured in every way by the authorities, and the entire Lipetsk center’s been deprived of premium pay to turn other officers against Sulim. He was removed from flight status. Public Chamber member Anatoliy Kucherena reported over half of 150 personnel he met said they were aware of the corrupt pay scheme at the base.
On June 3, Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye addressed the basic flaw in Serdyukov’s Order 400 and premium pay:
“Here is the misfortune — the essentially socialist army was not ready for these market relations. Indoctrinated on the principle that everyone in the line is equal before the commander and in battle, before life and death, everyone to an equal degree responsible for his country and its security, officers became accustomed to distinguishing one from another only by stars on the shoulderboards and by position, where the difference in pay between lieutenant and colonel, a general even, was minimal: a couple — four thousand rubles. And here suddenly it became colossal — several times. And, of course, when not everyone started receiving such premiums for the very same service-work, but just those chosen by still incomprehensible principles, a Bolshevist idea immediately arose — take it and divide it up.”
“But it was impossible not to understand to what the revolutionary introduction of market relations and big money for different categories of servicemen could lead. But has pay become a schism in combat units? There’s no unambiguous answer.”
“What’s the result? To what is the Senior Lieutenant Sulim phenomenon leading? Most likely just to changes in the various fates of various officers and various military units. But over some kind of time everything will remain as before. If Orders No. 400, 400A and 155 aren’t be suspended and changed. If from 1 January next year, the difference in pay and premiums for the very same service-work aren’t so monstrously striking. It’s not worth destroying the monolithic army line with the almighty ruble. This could bring serious consequences in a real battle.”
Sulim gave Ogonek an interview. Sulim said his father was not happy about him going public, but Sulim stressed it was his own personal decision. General-Major Sulim’s being pressed to keep his son’s mouth shut.
Ogonek asked Sulim if he isn’t afraid of sharing MVD Major Dymovskiy’s fate:
“His colleagues, as I understand it, didn’t support Dymovskiy. There are more and more of us now. If I had been alone, perhaps, I would have repeated his fate. But my colleagues are supporting me so, everyone is ready to go only forward.”
By mid-June, Sulim’s antagonists — Colonels Kovalskiy and Sidorenko — were both relieved of duty, but his supporters — Majors Kubarev and Smirnov — had been hauled before an Air Forces attestation commission in Moscow, called cowards for not refusing to pay kickbacks, and all but told they would be transferred from their elite Lipetsk duty, according to Komsomolskaya pravda. The paper points out Kubarev is a Su-34 pilot qualified for aerial refueling, and Smirnov was regiment’s top pilot last year.
In Moskovskiy komsomolets, Olga Bozhyeva wrote that Sulim’s reprimand was for violating the law’s prohibition on “discussing and criticizing the orders of a commander.” The authorities apparently didn’t go after him for revealing some of the stupid things said and written by Deputy VVS CINC General-Major Viktor Bondarev. Instead, they focused on his criticism of the Defense Ministry’s anticorruption orders posted on his blog. For its part, MK posted new audio clips indicating that the even the local FSB is in on getting kickbacks at Lipetsk, and this didn’t happen just in the 3rd Squadron, but all over the center. Bozhyeva asks, if this happens in an elite formation like Lipetsk, what happens in less prestigious units?
There is lots on Sulim’s blog. Most recently, he wrote about meeting with VVS Deputy CINC, General-Lieutenant Sadofyev, who asked him why he had to “create a scandal.” Of course, Sulim’s made the point many times that he tried to go through the chain, through channels, and to do it without blood, and quietly. But Sadofyev and the older generation really don’t get it.
The new Russian generation of sons might make even congenitally pessimistic observers of Russia a little hopeful. The authorities could be playing an ultimately futile game of whack a mole with an entire generation of Dymovskiys and Matveyevs and Sulims.