Category Archives: Military Housing

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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Military Apartments Becoming an Issue

First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov

Wednesday First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov criticized a Primorskiy Kray deputy governor for the low quality of new housing for military men in Vladivostok’s Snegovaya Pad microrayon.  Shuvalov said the housing is cold, damp, and moldy.  According to RIA Novosti, Shuvalov heard complaints from a worker at Dalpribor, and rerouted his visit to inspect his building.

Shuvalov said:

“The builders have performed badly — cold air blows from the window frames and receptacles, from the registers of the radiator mountings.  The plastic windows throughout the apartment constantly “cry,” the wall in one of the rooms was quickly covered with mold.  The temperature in the apartment didn’t rise above 9ºC  degrees (48ºF).”

The press agency added that the walls of the apartment block’s service floor are cracked.

Shuvalov said the worker’s complaints are fully justified.  The kray’s deputy governor promised, of course, to sort out the situation.  But Shuvalov concluded the quality of completed construction needs a serious look, and added it’s impermissible that residents of new housing should have to make repairs.

Unusually frank comments from an unexpected source.  But it’s interesting Shuvalov didn’t hear other serious complaints about “Snegpa” . . . the files are full of 34 press articles about the microrayon’s problems in the past three years, though there hasn’t been time to write on them.  Most articles describe how this military housing was erected on Defense Ministry property, a former naval arms depot which exploded in 1992, without properly clearing and cleaning up old munitions and hazardous substances.

Newsru.com pointed this out.  Snegpa, it says, is a densely populated area of 50,000 retired and active servicemen and family members that has only one daycare (детсад) facility and one secondary school.  NVO (Sergey Konovalov) has written that Snegpa is one place where servicemen are refusing proferred apartments.

NVO doesn’t think anyone will be held responsible for the military housing mess.  Interesting that Shuvalov was willing to blame a regional official, but not fellow Team Putin member Defense Minister Serdyukov and his deputies. 

NVO also cited General Staff Chief Makarov at the OP on housing numbers.  He said, by the end of 2011, the military will have obtained 134,700 apartments for the military since 2009, but there were still 63,800 in line on October 1.

Colonel Sergey Zavarzin, writing for KP, counted a Defense Ministry claim of 175,600 obtained, or due to be, between 2009 and the end of 2012.  That number would be enough to close out the permanent apartment problem, if the military’s other numbers are accurate.  And only if ex-military men are actually willing to move their families into them.

According to ITAR-TASS, President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin addressed military apartments at last weekend’s United Russia conclave.  The former reiterated his refusal to put servicemen out of the army without presenting them with permanent housing, if they are entitled to it (an easy call since it remains illegal to do so, and the military can also just warehouse them outside the org-shtadt)

Putin said the military housing program has to be seen through to the end:

“But, to this time, there are still many violations and much callousness, and these problems have to be brought to zero, to be fully eradicated.”

Pardon if these words have appeared previously, but the Russian approach toward military housing has been and is still a Soviet one — numerical targets, “storming,” poor quality, no life cycle or support planning, etc.

More on the Unwanted Apartments

Microrayon for Ex-Servicemen (photo: Podolsk.ru)

A Defense Ministry source tells Interfaks nearly 800 former officers and generals who served in the military’s central command and control organs are suing the department over its failure to allocate them housing in Moscow.

The news agency’s source says these men have a right to apartments in Moscow and are refusing the Defense Ministry’s offer of housing in the capital’s suburbs.  He says new buildings in Moscow Oblast lack infrastructure, schools, and medical services, and it’s difficult to find work. 

In particular, he notes more than 21,000 apartments are being finished in the close-in suburbs of Podolsk and Balashikha.  But many remain unoccupied.  The military department decided to build housing there in 2008 because the cost per square meter was 35,000 rubles — less than half the prevailing cost in Moscow.

The agency’s interlocutor says, in Podolsk, the military is building an entire microrayon with more than 14,000 apartments, and Balashikha will have more than 7,000.

President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov Toured Podolsk Military Housing in January

Interfaks added that Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova, who holds the housing portfolio, acknowledged in September that there are 8,000 officers awaiting housing in Moscow, and indicated apartment blocks might be erected on Defense Ministry property in the city.  At the time, she also suggested that many of those who wanted apartments sooner were accepting ones in the nearby suburbs. 

Exactly a year ago, Defense Minister Serdyukov said the military could not afford to, and would not provide servicemen permanent apartments in Moscow, according to RIA NovostiMoskovskiy komsomolets at the time noted that the Defense Minister’s order clearly contradicted the Law “On the Status of Servicemen.”  As this NVO editorial indicates, Shevtsova’s September statements on Moscow housing came in the context of the flap over 160 generals and colonels who retired, probably in the hope of privatizing a service apartment, rather than obey orders to rotate to duties outside the capital. 

33,000 Unfinished or Unwanted Military Apartments

General-Major Chvarkov

Candor is a quirky thing.  It has a way of showing up in places you expect it least.  So it was yesterday when RIA Novosti covered General-Major Sergey Chvarkov’s meeting with members of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee.

Chvarkov is the relatively new head of the relatively new Main Directorate for Personnel Work.  The new name replaced an old one — Main Directorate for Socialization Work, GUVR for short.  Chvarkov and his charges are inheritors of the long tradition of zampolits and the Main Political Directorate.

According to Chvarkov, over the past year, military investigators have initiated 20 criminal cases involving the construction of thousands of unfinished and unwanted apartments intended for Defense Ministry servicemen.  But he declined to give specific details about the cases.

Deputy Committee Chairman Nikolay Sidoryak, however, said at present there are 33,000 apartments in various regions which are unwanted by servicemen.  He called this a “nightmarish figure.”  He wants those who ordered these apartments and financed their construction brought to account.  It’ll be interesting to see when or if this happens.

Early this year, a figure of only 20,000 was cited.

RIA Novosti gives a couple clipped Chvarkov phrases — the housing “isn’t fully ready,” and “a great number of refusals are happening.”  Then:

“I’ve personally seen buildings which stand in an empty field with absolutely no infrastructure.  Servicemen getting notifications that they’ve been granted housing go there, say the housing’s magnificent, good, but we don’t want to live there — we’re tired of garrisons.”

Committee Chairman Viktor Ozerov, for his part, says it’s all just a misunderstanding, and the Defense Ministry’s requirements for builders are just too tough.

RIA Novosti notes former Deputy Defense Minister Grigoriy Naginskiy claimed nearly two years ago that apartment construction was following detailed information on where servicemen want to live.

It would be easy to see the military housing issue as all but over and done with if one listened only to official political or military pronouncements, but reality just keeps coming back.  It smacks of a Soviet approach – fulfilling the plan and meeting the quota is what matters, how [i.e. quality] is secondary.  It makes one ask if this is more broadly indicative of how other decisions and policies are implemented.

Now permanent military apartments are supposed to be provided in 2013 (three years later than Putin’s original deadline).  And Putin himself said not long ago that there are only 77,000 apartments remaining to be built.

These unwanted apartments are exactly why some veterans have gone out for public demonstrations lately.  

It’s been clear for some time that the Defense Ministry builds apartments where it wants to, not where former servicemen want to live.  And it wants to build where it’s less expensive.  Paperwork problems have kept half of new military apartments empty each year.  And the problem of incomplete construction has also been around.  Not much about this situation’s changed in recent years.  But here’s one more recent article detailing the problems of permanent apartments built for the military.

Serdyukov and Baranets

Anatoliy Serdyukov (photo: Vladimir Belengurin)

Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets got to prompt Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov for a few statements on various topics in today’s paper.  It doesn’t seem like he really got to ask questions.

Serdyukov claims all but about 3% of GOZ-2011 has been placed, and 100% advances to the defense sector for 2012 will make for a smooth year of orders and production.  He “dodges the bullet” on not ordering Kalashnikovs.  He returns to the possibility of giving serving officers and contractees money to rent their own apartments, but this never worked well in the past.

Serdyukov says the first phase of military reform involved changing the Armed Forces’ org-shtat (TO&E) structure.  Now, he says, the second phase has begun, and it’s connected with rearming the troops.

On the state defense order (GOZ), Serdyukov says:

“During the formation of the Gosoboronzakaz, we had two issues with the defense sector — the price and quality of armaments.  We got them to open up their production “cost history.”  That is, they showed us everything transparently.  We needed to understand what they were getting and from where.  After long arguments, a compromise was found in the end.  We settled on quality criteria.  The Gosoboronzakaz is almost completely placed.  Of 580 billion rubles a little more than 20 billion was left ‘to settle.’  But we’ve also drawn conclusions from the lessons of this year.  Now the next Gosoboronzakaz will be formed in the Defense Ministry before December with such calculation that they will begin to fulfill it in January.  At the same time, we’re trying to make the Gosoboronzakaz 100% paid in advance to the defense sector.  Not another country in the world has such comfortable conditions for its VPK.”

Serdyukov says the Defense Ministry is still working on MPs, their regs, missions, training, structure, and size.  They’ll be responsible for discipline and order in garrisons and investigations.

The Defense Minister opines that Russia’s Israeli UAVs aren’t bad, but they are looking at Italian ones while domestic development continues.

Serdyukov confirmed that two new factories for producing the S-400 system will be built.  They are designed, and, he hopes, will begin production by 2015.

On tanks, the Defense Minister says they’ve taken the position that they can modernize T-72s to the level of a T-90 or better for 38 million rubles.  He believes it’s cost effective.

On the AK-74, Serdyukov claims they aren’t rejecting it, but they have depots overflowing with 17 million automatic rifles.  He says they’ll be used or modernized, some will be sold, and others transferred to other power ministries.

Serdyukov believes the draft military pay law now in the Duma will raise pensions by 50 or 60 percent.  Active military pay will be as advertised:  a lieutenant is supposed to get 50,000 or more rubles a month.  Contract enlisted will start at 25,000 or more depending on their duties.

Serdyukov hopes the problem of housing for retired servicemen will be concluded in 2013.  Then he can focus on service housing for contractees.  He proposes paying contractees to rent apartments while the Defense Ministry acquires or builds service housing.  “Apartment money” is a possibility but it has to be thought out.

Sunday on Pushkin Square

Waiting to Occupy Finished Apartments in Kupavna (photo: Mikhail Pavlenko)

Sunday’s “Army Against Serdyukov” demonstration took place as planned on Pushkin Square.  About 500 people attended, but organizers hoped for as many as 1,500.  The participants were orderly, and the police presence was light and relaxed compared with more overtly political protests.  Novyye izvestiya claimed there were similar meetings in Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, Severodvinsk, Stavropol, and Samara but the press reported only on protests in the latter city.

Dmitriy Gudkov used the occasion to publicize the Public Council for the Defense of Legal Rights of Servicemen’s appeal to President Medvedev.  Besides demanding Defense Minister Serdyukov’s resignation, the appeal calls for an end to violations of servicemen’s housing rights and to the collapse of the military education system and defense industry.

Dmitriy Gudkov (photo: Mikhail Pavlenko)

Gudkov told NI:

“We need to unite servicemen who today are dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the army.  There is a failure of all army reform, collapse of the defense sector . . . .  The breakdown of the military housing program.  Two hundred thousand officers’ families around the country who haven’t received apartments.  Military pensioners who today have a pitiful allowance.”

In remarks to Radio Svoboda, he said deceived servicemen may form their own, alternative list of those officers who are still waiting for their promised apartments.

Gudkov also claimed there were attempts to prevent the gathering:

“On the Internet, information was put out that the meeting would occur on Saturday.  Instructions went to all military units that anyone seen at the meeting would be dismissed.  The Defense Ministry did everything to disrupt this action.  But in vain.”

Hero of the Russian Federation, Cosmonaut Sergey Nefedov gave the introductory speech to the crowd on Pushkin Square.

Gudkov gave an account of Sunday’s event on his ЖЖ in which he said the protestors insist on their legal rights, and refuse to be silent although the authorities want to ignore them completely.  He called military reform not reform, but the collapse of the army.  Gudkov said the meeting wasn’t just against Serdyukov, but against all who don’t know how to manage the state in a professional manner, and those who are not up to their duties.  He concludes:

“Demonstrations, meetings – this is only the tip of the iceberg of the people’s agitation.  The number of those who’re ready to go in December to the polls and express their distrust in this government is growing larger.”

The Public Council is considering establishing a tent camp outside the Defense Ministry during the run-up to the elections, according to Gudkov.

Gudkov said television covered Sunday’s meeting, and cameras and microphones were visible in photos, but there were no TV news reports on the event.  There are, however, lots of videos and photos on Mikhail Pavlenko’s ЖЖ.

Two last items deserve mention.  Radio Svoboda talked to a retired Northern Fleet major, a military lawyer, named Igor Chuykov from Murmansk who spoke at Sunday’s anti-Serdyukov rally.  Chuykov described the situation among military men in his city:

“The movement in Murmansk is very serious.  Thanks just to this movement, those who participated in pickets in Murmansk, in Murmansk Oblast are now really getting apartments –those who were dismissed after 2005.  Those dismissed before 2005 are being given [state housing] certificates.  Somehow on these certificates it’s even possible to buy something.  The Kola Peninsula – this could be the only place where there are considerably more military men than MVD.  The smallest conflict between the military and police would lead simply to an uncontrollable escalation of violence.  The authorities quickly understood what this could lead to.  Therefore, the authorities’ priority task now is to pacify families.  People simply have no recourse.  It’s the fault of the state:  it forced people into open acts of disobedience by its own irresponsible, unprofessional actions.”

Radio Svoboda also quoted Viktor Baranets:

“In the army, there are many professionals who understand that military reform is going, to put it mildly, very badly.  Genshtab chief Makarov even attested to this when he honestly admitted at an officers’ assembly that we began military reform without any kind of scientific basis and calculations.  The most important social problem is housing.  They constantly fool the army, constantly change the rules of the game.  Here we need to observe a single very serious point – military men are beginning to organize.  The government must turn attention to this, but it stubbornly doesn’t want to do it.  I have the impression that they either are afraid of criticizing Serdyukov or afraid of openly recognizing that military reform has failed.  And just people who go to the demonstration, who announce their disagreement with Serdyukov’s methods of conducting reform, — they also want to get through to the Kremlin, to the government, to the state, to the Duma so that, in the end, some kind of decision will be made.”

Military Housing Promises

“By 2010 the question of permanent, and by 2012 of service housing for servicemen must be finally resolved.”

So declared President Vladimir Putin in his Poslaniye on May 10, 2006.

According to RIA Novosti, at United Russia’s interregional conference in Cherepovets today, Prime Minister Putin declared:

“Throughout Russia from 2011 to 2013, servicemen will be presented nearly 77 thousand apartments, that will allow the housing line for the armed forces to be eliminated completely.”

Putin had 5 years, 7 months, and 22 days to keep his original military housing promise.  Even though he admits he failed to keep it, he actually still has 118 days remaining on the original deadline.

He now has 1 year, 3 months, and 27 days to keep his new pledge.

Now many will argue that, when it comes to apartments and housing for Russian military men, the Putin regime’s glass is half, two-thirds, or mostly full, or something like that.

But it can also be argued that this was a pretty straightforward task, and that, with proper management, with adequate funding, and without inordinate corruption, it should have been accomplished pretty easily.

It’s another question altogether whether Russian voters keep track of political pledges and broken promises . . . and whether it means anything when they point them out. 

In any event, the military is a small constituency no politician really worries about offending.