Tag Archives: Main Military Prosecutor

Cosmic Corruption

Sergey Fridinskiy

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy gave Interfaks an interview several weeks ago in which he described generally improved crime statistics in the Armed Forces.  But he also called the scale of corruption in the military nothing short of “cosmic.”

Fridinskiy told the news service the army’s crime situation is stable and even improving.  Crimes by servicemen are down 16 percent, and there are fewer crimes committed by officers.  There’s a constantly growing number of military units where no legal violations law are registered.  Last year fewer soldiers suffered violence at the hands of their fellow soldiers.  But the army’s top law enforcer doesn’t think he’ll run out of work any time soon:

“In particular areas, for example, like saving budget resources allocated for military needs, or corrupt activities, the crime level, as before, is significant.  And we’re still far from ridding ourselves of nonregulation relations.”

More than 1,000 military officials were prosecuted for corruption, including 18 general officers — one-third of whom received jail time.  Since January 2011, the GVP’s prosecuted 250 bribery cases, many more than in 2010.  Fridinskiy singled out the GOZ and commercial firms outsourcing for military units as areas where problems are “not small.”  He puts annual Defense Ministry losses to corruption at 3 billion rubles.

This is, interestingly, the same figure he cited in early 2010.

Asked about the types of corrupt schemes in the military, Fridinskiy responded:

“Mainly untargeted use of budget resources, violating the rules and requirements of conducting auctions, competitions, and contractor selection, paying for work not really performed, significant inflating of prices for military products.  There are also multifarious kickbacks, bribes, and misuse.  Generally, the banal sharing out of budget resources.  Devotees of living on state funds especially go for violations of the law.  Their scale now is simply stratospheric, I would even say, cosmic.”

Fridinskiy said the GVP’s been active in checking high-level Defense Ministry officials’ asset and property declarations.  He said called the scale of violations here “impressive.”  More often, he continued, the GVP finds evidence of servicemen and officials engaged in illegal entrepreneurship and commercial activity.  He mentioned an unnamed deputy Northern Fleet commander who failed to disclose his wife’s assets, and a Rosoboronpostavka bureaucrat who simultaneously serves as general director of a corporation.

The GVP Chief then shifted gears to talk about barracks violence which he said was down by 20 percent in 2011, with cases involving “serious consequences” declining a third.

Lastly, Interfaks asked about military police, of which Fridinskiy’s skeptical.  He emphasized military prosecutors will continue supervising army investigations, but he doubts MPs are ready to run criminal inquiries.  He repeated his familiar assertion that they aren’t a panacea; their existence won’t change the social factors behind crime among servicemen.

Would have been interesting if the news agency had asked if this year’s higher pay for officers will cut army crime in 2012.

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The Ayderkhanov Case (Part I)

Ruslan Ayderkhanov

Here’s what looks like a case where the beating death of a conscript is being passed off as another suicide in the ranks.  We addressed this here, and the tragic Ayderkhanov case broke into the news just 11 days later.  This sad story deserved attention sooner than your author was able to give it.

Thursday Newsru.com reported Ayderkhanov’s body has been exhumed for additional medical examination to determine the cause and circumstances of his death.  Official examiners as well as one independent expert, Aleksandr Vlasov, will take part in the process which, according to RIA Novosti, should take two weeks.

Newsru recapped the basic facts.  On August 31, the 20-year-old Ayderkhanov went missing from V / Ch 55062, part of the Yelan garrison, located in Poroshino, Chelyabinsk Oblast.  His body was found hanging from a tree in nearby woods on September 3.

The military authorities were quick to label this an obvious suicide, but his relatives were suspicious about injuries all over Ayderkhanov’s body.  He had teeth knocked out, a broken leg, a missing eye, a knife wound in his chest, and burns, bruises, and abrasions.

The Yelan garrison’s military prosecutor opened an Article 110 “Incitement to Suicide” investigation, but just as quickly announced there were no facts indicating violence or the “violation of the regulations on mutual relations” [i.e. abuse] against Ayderkhanov.  The prosecutor concluded the soldier was simply depressed about the death of his mother last winter. 

The Main Military Prosecutor stated categorically there was no evidence of a beating, and any injuries on Ayderkhanov’s body were from banging against the tree on which he hung himself.  The GVP categorically rejected the idea of exhuming and examining the body again.

Radio Svoboda quoted GVP directorate chief Aleksandr Nikitin:

“There is evidence that his death was not a result of violent actions.”

RIA Novosti continued from Nikitin:

“A close examination of the place of death and Ayderkhanov’s body was conducted.  The investigation established that there are not any traces of violence which could have caused the serviceman’s death on the body.”

Ruslan Ayderkhanov

Nakanune.ru quoted a Central MD spokesman:

“According to preliminary data, no facts of nonregulation relations have appeared.  But if the guilt of officials is proven, they will be punished in the most strict way.”

According to Radio Svoboda, after the GVP proved no help, Chelyabinsk’s human rights ombudsman approached Aleksandr Vlasov.  Vlasov has stated his professional opinion that Ayderkhanov was struck at least 18 times while he was still alive.

Part II tomorrow.

Some Cracks in Air Forces’ Stonewall (Part I)

An update on the Igor Sulim case . . . on Tuesday, Moskovskiy komsomolets’ Olga Bozhyeva reported there may finally be some pressure on the alleged extortionists.  Colonel Kovalskiy and one Captain Artemyev decided (in fine Russian tradition) to go the hospital to avoid arrest, but a former 4th squadron chief of staff and Kovalskiy relative, Mikhail Zakurdayev was arrested on July 30. 

Bozhyeva wrote about related crimes at Lipetsk including forgery and extortion from civilian workers receiving premiums to the tune of 10 million rubles.

She reported that, despite the Defense Ministry’s promise to check all units, systemic extortion of premium pay was only found in Lipetsk, Sevastopol, Syzran, and Michurinsk.

The case at the Syzran generated some media attention starting on July 29.  The press reported the chief of the helicopter pilot training center, Colonel Nikolay Yartsev, and a former training regiment commander have allegedly been “taxing” pilots five percent of their premium pay, taking a total of four million rubles from 43 officers last year.  The Saratov garrison commander has opened a criminal case against them.

According to Bozhyeva, military prosecutors say the command in Lipetsk is still creating obstacles instead of establishing order in the ranks.  It transferred a primary witness and Sulim ally — Major Anton Smirnov — to Chelyabinsk.  Another officer whose wife complained in a letter to the president was removed from flight duty for “poor morale.” 

Bozhyeva ends with an excerpt from Sulim’s blog where he says officers are quizzed several times a day on the most obscure military topics.  Failing the tests justifies not paying their premium pay.

According to RIA Novosti, on Wednesday, Sergey Fridinskiy announced that unnamed VVS Glavkomat officers have been held to account for violating the rights of Lipetsk pilots facing extortion from their own commanders. 

The Main Military Prosecutor apparently responded to queries from Duma deputies interceding on behalf of Senior Lieutenant Sulim.  Fridinskiy indicated his prosecutors checked on Sulim’s complaint that his rights were violated during the initial [Air Forces] investigation. 

The head prosecutor claimed, as a result of these checks, several criminal cases were launched, and steps were taken to prevent further violations.  The GVP also announced that:

“The officials, including those in the VVS Glavkomat, who committed them have been brought to account on the GVP’s demand.”

The GVP found that, in the investigation, no active steps were taken, and conditions were created for continued illegal activity by dishonest officers.  They obstructed the investigation, and pressured officers prepared to cooperate with investigators.

According to RIA Novosti, Sulim’s main antagonists, Colonels Kovalskiy and Sidorenko, were removed from duty, but continued to have regular, unfettered access to the base.  But the pilots and navigators who gave evidence were removed from flight duty and given menial duties.  Several times the command’s given Sulim tasks without informing him to provide the basis for reprimands for not fulfilling assigned duties.

The Duma deputies who went to Fridinskiy think the Lipetsk command’s dragging out the case and using “administrative resources” to pressure those who spoke out.  The deputies believe the Tambov garrison military prosecutor isn’t interested in closing the case, and to them, this means higher-ranking officials will have to be made accountable.

More tomorrow.

More on the Retiring General Troyka

In yesterday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Sergey Konovalov followed up the story of the retiring generals — Andrey Tretyak, Sergey Skokov, and Oleg Ivanov.

Konovalov held to the main line of his earlier report.  He maintains the retirement of these Defense Ministry central apparatus officers has been “frozen.”  Without addressing the various explanations and denials in the media, he asks why three promising generals would want out early.  Finally, he repeats his earlier contention that the resignations could be a sign of “military opposition” to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.

Konovalov cites a highly-placed Defense Ministry source saying:

“Soon representatives of the Presidential Administration’s cadre organs will talk with the generals who requested discharge to find out the real reasons why young, promising leaders are retiring from the army.”

A law enforcement source tells NG that the Main Military Prosecutor has long questioned the Defense Ministry’s cadre policy:

“Competent officers are dismissed, meanwhile every kind of lawbreaker who’s had a run-in with military justice gets moved up to higher duties.” 

One general told NG that General-Lieutenant Sergey Surovikin — slated to head Russia’s new military police force — got one year of probation for trying to sell a pistol while attending the Frunze Military Academy.  The paper then lists some other, less prominent, cases of officers with shady or criminal backgrounds who’ve advanced through the ranks to higher posts.
 
NG’s sources claim the Defense Ministry’s cadre policy will soon undergo an analysis and evaluation by the PA’s cadre department.

The Defense Ministry’s PR blitz (as well as independent reporting) in the wake of the resignations blunted Konovalov’s assertion that the generals were quitting over disagreements with military reforms.  This article answered his question from earlier — his sources say the PA will investigate recent Defense Ministry personnel moves.  But one wonders how much time and attention President Medvedev’s people can devote to this with an agenda already full of political and domestic policy issues.

Khaki-Colored Narcomania

FSKN Chief Viktor Ivanov and Russia's Narco-Apocalypse

On 2 December, Rossiyskaya gazeta covered a “coordinating conference” of the Federal Narcotics Control Service (FSKN) held the previous day in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Oblast.  At the meeting, FSKN Director Viktor Ivanov reported:

“The preliminary results of our investigation attest to the apocalyptic scale of the country’s narco-tragedy.  More than 100,000 of those dying [from illegal narcotics use] every year in Russia are young people from 15 to 30.”

Newsru.com said the FSKN previously acknowledged only 30,000 deaths annually from narcotics in this age group.  The media outlet also noted that the FSKN said Russia currently has 2.5 million heroin addicts, and 3 million other illegal drug users.  Russia alone represents the world’s second leading region for heroin consumption, according to a recent U.N. study.  It consumes 21 percent of the world’s supply, while Europe is number one at 26 percent.

Main Military Prosecutor Fridinskiy

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy participated in the FSKN meeting.  He said:

“Growth in the number of narcotics crimes among servicemen is notable in the course of the last five years.  In 2009, the number of serious and very serious crimes connected with narcotics almost doubled.”  

Izvestiya indicated Fridinskiy said 1.7 times, to be exact.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Fridinskiy said all drug-related crime increased by four times.

The “most complex” situation with illegal narcotics in the army, according to Fridinskiy, is found in the Southern and Eastern MDs.  In the first nine months of this year, 345 crimes involving narcotics trafficking were registered in the armed forces.  Fridinskiy also said more than two-thirds of narcotics trafficking crimes are committed by contract servicemen, and one-fifth by officers.

But he said narcotics crimes represent only three percent of all army crime, according to Krasnaya zvezda.  Still, he noted that the relatively small number of narcotics crimes in the army and medical statistics do not reflect “how much this problem has grown.”

The Defense Ministry daily quoted him:

“Despite the fact that these figures aren’t so large, the problem of narcotics distribution in the troops is significantly broader.  It’s essential to develop coordinated measures to provide warning of illegal narcotics trafficking in the troops and military formations.  If we don’t take any action now, the situation will only worsen in the future.”

Fridinskiy also said the danger of narcotics use is greater in the military than in the civilian world, given the availability of vehicles, combat equipment, and weapons.

ITAR-TASS reported Fridinskiy’s statement that 3,000 young man are declared unfit for army service each year due to narcotics use. 

Krasnaya zvezda provided more Fridinskiy remarks:

“The facts of the discovery of the use of narcotics in training institutions [VVUZy] and, unfortunately, in elite units and sub-units are a graphic example.”

In such places, “even a group of several people using narcotics is quite a serious problem.”

Komsomolskaya pravda focused on this first-time admission of narcotics use and narcotics crimes among Spetsnaz troops, in the special designation sub-units of the “power” ministries [i.e. not just the Defense Ministry].  It also repeated ITAR-TASS saying, “in some Defense Ministry units officers even organized ‘shooting galleries’ where narcotics are prepared and used, including by conscript soldiers.”

The FSKN and Fridinskiy information appeared a week after ITAR-TASS reported that the RVSN will start drug screening for its personnel in 2011.  The RVSN said it would use testing systems that can detect the presence or traces of narcotics even a year after the fact.  It said “security sub-units” would be checked twice a year, and all others once.  Testing might be extended to cover the RVSN’s civilian workers as well.

News items on drug busts in the Russian military are not really frequent or rare.  There are occasional stories.  Just a casual look shows investigators broke up two drug rings in the Moscow MD in August.  They reported investigating 60 drug trafficking cases in 2009.  There were drug busts in both Baltic and Pacific Fleets back in March of this year.

And it’s worth noting that surveys of conscripts typically show that 10 percent or less of new draftees fall into the undesirable category of “drug and alcohol abusers or those who have a police record.”  Drug users are some portion of that 10 percent, and that seems to track roughly with what Fridinskiy says about the fairly low profile of narcotics in the army.  But, as said above, he’s concerned that it’s growing.

Military-Theft Forces

Prosecutors Rate the Most Corrupt Service Branches

40-50 Percent of State Defense Order Simply Stolen in Recent Years . . . no wonder large-scale procurement hasn’t happened.  Serdyukov supporter Korotchenko tries to paint opponents of military reforms as people trying to protect their corrupt schemes.  This surely goes on, but there also have to be people opposing them for reasons other than greed.  Finally, it’s at least conceivable that, if Serdyukov doesn’t make progress against corruption, it could cost him his job (if he stays that long, he is approaching the four-year mark).  Thus endeth the precis for this post . . .

This week Profil investigates military corruption.  The magazine notes the number and scale of Defense Ministry corruption cases is growing by leaps and bounds, reaching losses of 2.2 billion rubles for the first ten months of 2010.  It concludes, despite a significant cut in the officer corps and Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s battle against “thieves in broad stripes [generals],” the number of corruption crimes is not only not declining, but has substantially increased.  Profil obtained an analytical report compiled by the Main Military Prosecutor (GVP) showing who has stolen how much this year.

The GVP presented its report to a closed session of the Duma Defense Committee.  It says its analysis shows “efforts to counteract corruption in the troops are insufficiently effective.”

Profil’s first graphic . . .

Growth of Corruption Crimes in the Army (First 10 Months of 2010)

Troops/Military District/Fleet                     2009       2010       Growth (%)

North Caucasus MD                                             184          311                 69

Moscow MD                                                              94           152                61.7

Air-Assault Troops (VDV)                                 34            119                250

Siberian MD                                                             76            117                 54

Strategic Missile Troops (RVSN)                  59              93                 57.6       

Northern Fleet                                                      50              59                 18

Space Troops                                                        27              44                 63

Caspian Flotilla                                                      5                  7                 40

Black Sea Fleet                                                      2                  6                 200

Profil suggests the recent wave of military retirements signed off by President Dmitriy Medvedev could have been sparked by corruption charges.  While possible, there’s no evidence to support this thesis. 

A Profil source in the Defense Ministry says, not surprisingly, officials responsible for the State Defense Order (GOZ or ГОЗ), capital construction, and the disposition of military property (first and foremost real estate) inflict the greatest losses on the budget.  The article quotes Igor Korotchenko:

“In the course of recent years, 40-50% of resources allocated for the State Defense Order were simply stolen.  This happened, for example, when money was directed at the fulfillment of some concrete work, but there were no real results.  Write-offs appeared in the end or a weapons system was developed that simply didn’t meet its technical requirements.”

Profil suggests that many officers are rushing to get one last bite of military money before Serdyukov’s reforms completely derail their schemes.  It cites Ruslan Pukhov offering two different explanations for rising military corruption:

“Feeling an impending dismissal, officials are probably trying to take the maximum from their positions.  However, it can’t be ruled out that the prosecutor has really reinforced his work in different areas.  Corruption is an acute issue for the prosecutor.”

Pukhov thinks that, although the percentage increase in corruption looks really bad for the VDV, “corruption in the armed forces is spread equally and the growth in corruption crimes in separate branches or districts is connected only with where they are being investigated.”

A very good point, Mr. Pukhov.  Yes, the results of this little anticorruption experiment are very much influenced by where and how it is being conducted.  One should also pay much more attention to the absolute numbers of corruption cases than the percentage changes, and nothing has been said about the relative size of the various parts of the armed forces . . . no per capita figures are provided.  Are 44 crimes in the relatively small Space Troops more significant than 152 in the larger Moscow MD?

Korotchenko, a fairly strong Serdyukov proponent, says the Defense Minister and his tax service colleagues are beginning to break existing corrupt ties, institute financial transparency, and deprive the generals of the right to conclude any contracts.  Dividing the Ministry into military and civilian halves will keep military men out of financial expenditures, and this “process of shifting generals out of the feeding trough” will continue until 2012.  The generals will provide requirements, and civilians will allocate the financing.

A second graphic with some absolute figures on losses due to corruption . . .

Growth of Corruption Crimes in the Army (First 10 Months of 2010)

Troops                                                                  Loss Amount                      Annual Growth

                                                                           (millions of rubles)                        (times)

Strategic Missile Troops (RVSN)                      59.8                                            15          

Air-Assault Troops (VDV)                                   57.5                                            12.2

Space Troops                                                            47.6                                              2.2

Korotchenko claims:

“The campaign against Serdyukov is mainly heated up by those people who’ve been deprived of the feeding trough.  So, the director of a large defense enterprise has for many years sawed off rubles by the billion every year in the transfer of money that comes to fulfill the Gosoboronzakaz.  When Serdyukov deprived this director of such a trough, he began to finance any actions directed at discrediting and, possibly, even removing the Defense Minister.”

So, Korotchenko asserts most conflicts over army reform are banal conflicts of interest for those who can’t steal like they used to.  But didn’t the GVP just say they’re doing a better job of stealing than ever before?

Korotchenko continues:

“Of course, Serdyukov is not an angel, and many of his actions on the military reform plane call forth questions, but it’s another thing that before he arrived, corruption in the Defense Ministry had achieved such a level that he was forced to cut to the bone.  Many scandals proceed only because their financial-economic interests were affected:  the meetings of the airborne guys is just one in this series.”

Then Profil turns to Vitaliy Shlykov, who says:

“Broad publicity for corruption scandals in the Defense Ministry cannot but affect the minister.”

But he believes the Kremlin knows no one can fight corruption like Serdyukov, therefore the GVP report isn’t a real blow to him.

Profil concludes, so far, Serdyukov hasn’t squandered the trust placed in him, but the struggle against corruption only strengthens him as long as it’s a success.  If corruption keeps growing, it’s possible the Defense Minister himself could wind up on the “shot list.”

Fridinskiy vs. Serdyukov on Dedovshchina

Barracks violence in Russia has risen by at least 50 percent thus far in 2010; this isn’t exactly news since the Main Military Prosecutor announced the same thing back in July.  But his comments on the situation provide an interesting contrast with what Defense Minister Serdyukov said in his interview this week.

ITAR-TASS reported on Main Military Prosecutor (GVP or ГВП) Sergey Fridinskiy’s statement that increasing the number of conscripts in Russia’s armed forces has led, as he predicted, to a rise in ‘nonregulation relations.’  And some 3,000 servicemen have suffered from hazing and other violence in the barracks.

Fridinskiy said:

“If we’re talking about nonregulation manifestations, then, of course, they worry everyone – both society and military prosecutors – since they infringe on the life and health of servicemen, and therefore we view them in the most severe way.  Amid a reduction in general criminality, the quantity of cases of barracks violence rose by almost a third over nine months of this year.”

Among the 3,000 victims, Fridinskiy reported:

“Nine men died, and another 96 suffered serious harm to their health.”

“Our joint efforts – both with commands and with civil society institutions – really allowed us not only to stop negative processes in the army environment, but even to prevent many serious consequences.  The curve of nonregulation manifestations certainly went lower.  However, since last year, the situation began to change again.  Since the fall [of 2009], we felt that the sharp increase in conscript soldiers could lead to a deterioration in legal order among the troops.  And we talked about this.  And so it happened.”

“There’s no need to fear.  And I will say that, on the whole, the crime level among the troops is declining.  Based on the results of the first eight months, the number of registered crimes fell almost 10 percent.  There are a lot of military units where there are practically no legal violations.”

Fridinskiy called the doubling of the draftee contingent one of the reasons for the growth in ‘nonregulation manifestations.’  He said more than 1,400 soldiers and sergeants were convicted of assault and battery through August.  Then Fridinskiy added a second reason – great negligence in the work of officers.

GVP data shows approximately one-third of the victims of violence are draftees in their first 2-3 months of service, and the offenders, on the other hand, have served 8-9 months.  So, Fridinskiy concludes, the informal division of conscripts into ‘seniors’ and ‘juniors’ in the barracks hasn’t gone away.

Fridinskiy noted that instead of ‘youthful boldness,’ barracks violence is now more often motivated by baser motives.  The number of ‘nonregulation manifestations’ connected with theft and extortion has grown more than 50 percent.  And he said:

“They steal mobile phones and money most often – just exactly like it happens on city streets.”

So, let’s go back to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s analysis of barracks violence.  Asked whether one-year conscription is having any effect on dedovshchina, he said: 

“There are more nonregulation instances in absolute terms.  But this doesn’t scare me, because there are more conscripts.  The situation has to level out with time.  And the statistics will begin to fall perfectly precisely.  Particularly when you account for our methods:  we are very demanding with commanders on this, even up to dismissal in cases with deadly consequences.  Human rights advocates have already begun to criticize me for dismissing many of them for nothing.” 

So Serdyukov and Fridinskiy agree there are more, and they surely know if there are more in relative terms as well.  Say incidents per 1,000 soldiers.  But they aren’t saying. 

And the argument that there’s more violence because there are more conscripts doesn’t necessarily hold water either.  Before the shift to 1-year conscription, about 130,000 guys were inducted every six months in 4 cycles over 2 years, for a total of roughly 520,000 conscripts at any given time.  The only thing that’s changed is that they’re taken in two large tranches now . . . if it’s 260,000 guys, that’s still 520,000 soldiers at any moment.

In late 2009, Serdyukov called hazing and other violence a major unresolved problem, and clearly the situation will be even worse by late 2010.  Don’t forget that dedovshchina and other violence remains the number one reason why Russian men don’t want to serve, and it’s significant it’s rising at the very moment the army’s trying to put ever-expanding numbers of guys [280,000 this fall] in uniform.  It certainly doesn’t make the job easier. 

Serdyukov’s answer above really sounds like soft-peddling an intractable problem.  He thinks this will magically “level out” by itself.  And he’s counting on commanders to rectify it, the very people Fridinskiy says are to blame.