Somebody Finally Went There

Komsomolskaya pravda's Viktor Baranets

Yes, somebody finally went to a very obvious place — during this week’s “live broadcast,” Viktor Baranets called Vladimir Putin on his failure to solve the military housing problem.  You may recall this recent post lamented Putin’s “free pass” on the unfulfilled promise of apartments for servicemen.

Gov.ru printed the transcript of Putin’s on-air session with reporters.  In a friendly manner, Baranets warned Putin he was about to ask an uncomfortable question.  And he couched his question like this:

“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin many times said to the army and Russia that the housing problem for dismissed servicemen would be resolved by 2010.  The problem is not resolved.  Not one minister has apologized to the dozens of essentially deceived people, and you have not apologized.”

“Don’t you believe it’s necessary to give some apologies to the people and tell them the honest, objective time when this problem will really be resolved?”

Baranets continues:

“I’m addressing you as a candidate for Russian Federation President.”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, it’s perfectly obvious that a number of ministers have failed in their work in strategic areas.  This concerns the economy, and health care, and the army.  Nevertheless, Vladimir Vladimirovich, you still to this time haven’t given a very sharp critical evaluation of the work of these ministers.  Why are you afraid to replace them?”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, if you will dispose of the untalented and throw talented, principled ministers into the battle, you can believe, the people will be drawn to you, reforms will go forward.”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am finishing my long speech and I want to tell you, you’ve already been told many times, why don’t you replace talentless, unprincipled ministers, who, by the way, are deceiving you.  They have really set you up when you talked about how the problem for housing the dismissed would be resolved.  They set you up.  This is a state crime, not just a crime against you, Vladimir Vladimirovich.  You need to make conclusions from this.”

“But if you have problems with selecting personnel, turn to us, we will help, including even me.”

Vladimir Putin Answers Baranets

After a little banter, Putin got to his answer.
 
Putin said his predecessor didn’t deal with the military housing problem, and, starting with those dismissed in the 1990s, the line for apartments just grew. 
 
His administration counted 70,000 ex-servicemen in need of housing, and handed out 111,000 apartments in 2008-2010.  But, said Putin, the Defense Ministry undercounted, and there were actually 150,000 men in the housing queue.
 
According to the Prime Minister, even though funds were available, the construction industry just didn’t have the capacity to build faster. 
 
In 2008, the dismissal of excess officers from the Armed Forces and the global financial crisis made housing military men more difficult.
 
But Putin concluded he still thinks the permanent apartment problem will be resolved by the end of 2012, and service apartment problem a year later.  He noted, however, that the line may get longer since there’s an issue of servicemen still waiting in municipal housing queues.
 
Then Putin turned to Baranets’ point about ministers.  Putin said he didn’t want to make them scapegoats since he is ultimately responsible, and cadre reshuffles mean lost months of work.  He said he prefers to straighten ministers out so they avoid mistakes.  Putin ended his answer by saying a time for renewing the government line-up is coming, and this will happen.
 
KP’s video of the Q and A is hereTV Zvezda’s is on Mil.ru.
 
So Putin’s defense against Baranets’ accusations of failure on the military housing problem boils down to claiming it’s a hard issue.  If able to follow up, Baranets might have asked why the Defense Ministry didn’t accurately figure the number of apartments needed or investigate the chances of getting them from Russia’s housing market.  Ultimately, this little repartee between once-and-future president and military correspondent is a small sign of how fear of Vladimir Putin has diminished.  It’s hard to imagine the same exchange five years ago.  Perhaps even five months ago.
 
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