Tag Archives: Premium Pay

The Sociological Center

Is the Russian Army's Combat Capability Increasing?

A nice find on Mil.ru . . . the Defense Ministry website has the Internet poll above on its front page.  If you click on Voting Results, you go to the results of all surveys conducted by the Defense Ministry’s Sociological Center.

To this particular question, 78 percent of respondents said its combat capability is decreasing.

Stepping back a bit, clicking on Sociological Center goes to a narrative explaining a little about it.  Its purpose is monitoring social processes in the military to work out scientifically-founded proposals on the morale-psychological support of military organizational development, training, and employment of the Armed Forces.  It also provides information support to commanders, staffs, and personnel officers.  The Center is charged with collecting data about the socio-economic circumstances of servicemen and their families.

The military opinion surveying effort has been around for a while.  During the first big push for contract service beginning in 2003, Defense Ministry pollsters actively asked contractees, or prospective ones, what attracted or discouraged them from signing up.

We’re not told how or when these survey questions were asked.  They’re likely Internet polls rather than more scientific random sampling. 

But one still admires the brutal honesty of publishing these results.  They don’t accord with what Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov wants to see or hear three years after launching military reform.  They indicate how far the Russians have to go to turn around the perception, if not the reality, of life in the Armed Forces.  At the same time, getting feedback is a critical step in correcting their problems.

Your author has regrouped the survey results on various questions thematically.  In the interests of brevity, only the answer with the highest percentage is shown.

Let’s start with other combat capability-related questions:

  • How do you evaluate the Russian Army’s current combat capability?  72 percent said low.
  • Is three months sufficient to train a military specialist?  82 percent said no.
  • What effect is the humanization of service having on combat readiness?  71 percent said it is causing it to decline.
  • Are you satisfied by the media’s presentation of Armed Forces exercises?  75 percent said no.
  • How do you evaluate the present level of combat training?  74 percent said poor.
  • Can the Armed Forces reliably guarantee Russia’s security?  81 percent said no.
  • Is there now a military threat to Russia from other countries?  79 percent said yes.

Some very general questions:

  • Do you approve of the Russian Army’s activity?  62 percent said no.
  • How do you feel when you talk about the Armed Forces?  52 percent said negative.
  • Is it necessary for the media to discuss negative events in the Armed Forces?  75 percent said yes.
  • How does the media portray the activities of the Armed Forces?  64 percent said not objectively.
  • Do you agree that “A powerful army is a powerful Russia?”  80 percent said yes.

On conscription:

  • Should draft evaders be punished?  68 percent said yes.
  • How do you feel about draft evasion?  59 percent said negative.
  • Does military service promote striving for a healthy way of life?  56 percent said yes.
  • Would you want a close relative to serve in the army?  68 percent said no.

On law and order in the ranks:

  • Who should control the military police?  52 percent said the Defense Ministry.
  • Do officers have enough powers to keep order?  84 percent said no.
  • How do you assess measures to counter corruption in the army?  66 percent said they have little effect.
  • Is “dedovshchina” an acute problem?  62 percent said yes.

On personnel, pay, and benefits:

  • Should Order No. 400 premium pay continue or be discontinued?  80 percent said discontinue it.
  • How do you feel about rotating officers’ duty stations?  51 percent are negative.
  • How has Order No. 400 affected corruption in the army?  88 percent said it’s caused it to grow.
  • Is there a “cadre famine” in the Armed Forces?  83 percent said yes.
  • How do you evaluate the consequences of Order No. 400?  89 percent are negative.
  • Where should priests be located?  42 percent said in battalions.
  • Will priests help in forming healthy moral relations in the military collective?  55 percent said no.
  • How do you evaluate the effect of the military mortgage system?  74 percent said low.
  • Will higher pay in 2012 raise the social status of servicemen?  58 percent said no.
  • Will requalifying military arsenal workers increase safety?  65 percent said no.
  • Do military families live better or worse than people in your region?  77 percent said worse.
  • Are social guarantees for servicemen sufficient?  86 percent said no.
  • Has the prestige of the Armed Forces increased in the course of military reform?  59 percent said it remains at the previous level.

The responses on the army’s capabilities weren’t new.  One is surprised, however, at how negative respondents were on premium pay, how little they expect from higher officer pay, and the lack of any improved perception of the prestige of military service.

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Cadre Changes

President Medvedev’s military personnel decree from December 22.  

Recall that Colonel Yartsev is being investigated for “taxing” the premium pay his pilots were receiving.

Appoint:

  • Colonel Dmitriy Vilorovich Gorbatenko, Chief, Troop Training Directorate,  Western MD.
  • Captain 1st Rank Oleg Vladimirovich Zhuravlev, Commander, Leningrad Naval Base, Baltic Fleet.

Relieve:

  • Colonel of Medical Service Aleksey Eduardovich Nikitin, Chief, 2nd Directorate, Deputy Chief, Main Military-Medical Directorate, RF Defense Ministry.
  • Colonel Nikolay Nikolayevich Yartsev, Chief, Air Forces Training-Scientific Center “Air Forces Academy Named for Professor N. Ye. Zhukovskiy and Yu. A. Gagarin” Branch (Syzran, Samara Oblast).

Relieve and dismiss:

  • Vice-Admiral Sergey Ivanovich Menyaylo, Deputy Commander, Black Sea Fleet.

Dismiss:

  • General-Major Bagir Yusif ogly Fatullayev.

Some Cracks in Air Forces’ Stonewall (Part II)

Returning to the latest on Igor Sulim . . . in a late July Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye article, Oleg Vladykin summarized the GVP’s various recent press releases about rising crime in the Armed Forces.  He provided insight into how senior officers view Sulim and premium pay extortion at Lipetsk.

A colonel, a deputy formation commander speaking anonymously told Vladykin:

“Almost the entire service of many senior officers came to twenty years in which they constantly humiliated, deprived the army whenever possible, and generally kept it in a miserable state.  But at the same time they used it regularly.  Senior officers carried all this gloom on their shoulders.  And here now, as if in gratitude, they promise to raise their pay three times!  Colonels will receive the same as junior managers in some public company, whose peaceful labor the army successfully defended in spite of everything.  Many have only a year or two left to serve, then dismissal in connection with reaching the age limit.  And what then?  And then also an increased, but still laughable pension.  It will be two times less than a lieutenant’s pay.  Therefore, senior comrades confidently tell younger officers:  ‘Boys, you still have everything ahead of you.  Somehow, you’ll manage to make a more or less decent living.  We here won’t…’  You know the majority understand this.  And those like Senior Lieutenant Sulim from the Lipetsk Center are the exceptions.  I’m not judging them, no, but I’m sure that after 1 January the prosecutors won’t easily locate those who’ll agree to talk about their contributions to their senior colleagues.”

Vladykin says he can’t agree with this argument, but it’s impossible not to note some logic in it.  He concludes:

“The psychology of men in shoulderboards has changed very powerfully in the course of recent Armed Forces transformations.”

In his Moskovskiy komsomolets blog Friday, Sulim highlighted an article posted on Lipetsk’s Gorod48.ru.  The article reviewed the shady, semi-criminal past of Hero of the Russian Federation, General-Major Aleksandr Kharchevskiy.

Then Sulim asks (rhetorically) how Kharchevskiy can be silent, and how could he not know about the criminal activities of his deputy, of his cousin, or of his subordinates who extorted money from their subordinates.  He sums it up:

“It’s shameful and disgusting that in the space of twenty years they’ve turned an elite flying unit into an elite business for stuffing pockets, hiding all this under a mask of love for the Motherland and swearing on officer’s honor.”

Perhaps there’s some kind of behind-the-scenes three-way struggle between the Defense Ministry, Air Forces, and military prosecutors over premium pay extortion.  Or maybe it’s a negotiation to agree on how, and how far, to pursue the Lipetsk case and ones like it.

But the Defense Ministry seems paralyzed.  The unit checks ordered by Serdyukov rather improbably failed to turn up similar crimes in services or branches besides the Air Forces.  As the colonel quoted above says, the Defense Ministry may believe the scandal will die down after the new, higher military pay system goes into effect.

The cracks in the Air Forces’ stonewall on the Sulim case are only tiny fissures.  Those immediately involved in extorting money and pressuring officers at Lipetsk are finally in trouble with the law, but no one above that immediate level.  As an institution, the VVS appears unworried for now.

The prosecutors apparently can’t even name the officers they “hold accountable” in the VVS Glavkomat.  This isn’t to belittle Sergey Fridinskiy, his organization, and their efforts.  He and his prosecutors sometimes seem to be the only people looking honestly at the state of the Russian military.  There are clearly only so many battles they can fight. 

And preoccupied as they are with their own positions, skirmishes, and the fast-approaching election season, Russia’s political and government leaders aren’t likely to devote more time or attention to untangling what’s happened at Lipetsk.

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.

Latest on Sulim and Premium Pay Extortion

The Tambov military garrison prosecutor has told Kommersant charges have been lodged against Sergey Sidorenko, deputy commander of a unit at the elite Lipetsk pilot training center.  Sidorenko and others allegedly extorted 3 million rubles of premium pay from other officers at Lipetsk since the beginning of 2010.

According to Senior Lieutentant Igor Sulim, who wrote about the situation at Lipetsk in his blog in May, the training center’s chief of staff, Colonel Eduard Kovalskiy and his deputy Sergey Tereshin organized the scheme, and Sidorenko carried it out.  Sulim maintains the entire leadership of the unit [center?] and local law enforcement knew about the extortion racket.

After Sulim went public, investigators substantiated his accusations, and the Defense Ministry reportedly began to check premium pay distribution in other military units.

Last week, Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy acknowledged that extortion in the distribution of supplementary pay in army units is ubiquitous, “beginning in company sub-units and ending with higher staffs.”  He continued:

“Criminal cases on the facts of extortion are being investigated in practically every district and fleet.”  

He also criticized the Air Forces for pressuring the victims:

“Instead of conducting rapid checks and adopting severe measures toward bribe-takers, VVS Glavkomat officials, essentially, began pressuring the personnel for bringing situation out of the shadows.”

For his part, Sulim says:

“The center’s leadership headed by General Aleksandr Kharchevskiy is trying to dissociate itself from this story.  Kharchevskiy, for example, announces he didn’t know anything about extortion from pilots.  At the same time, he tries to sully me, publicly calling me first deranged, then a homosexual.  Meanwhile, they’ve hardly let me fly since May 14, and this means soon essentially I’ll have to learn to fly again.”

During the Defense Ministry’s check for similar problems elsewhere, the only other situation to receive press attention was a case involving some Black Sea Fleet aviation units.  See Komsomolskaya pravda and Novyy region.

Soviet Fathers and Russian Sons

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?

Senior Lieutenant Igor Sulim

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.

Lipetsk Scandal Update

Let’s update the action.

It’s rare when a single incident like Lipetsk is deemed serious enough to warrant a quick public response.  But that’s what’s happening.

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov has ordered checks for corruption in large formations, formations, and units [i.e. army-level down].  His press-service says they’ll look specifically for premium pay kickback schemes.  And servicemen and their families are urged to fill out electronic complaint forms on Mil.ru if they know about extortion rackets.  They don’t need to observe the chain of command either.

Newsru.com has a good recap.  VVS Deputy CINC, General-Major Bondarev has confirmed the existence of a kickback scheme at Lipetsk.  But he also called Sulim and others cowards for not refusing to pay.  He also denied putting any pressure on the men.

As Newsru notes, MK has audio of Bondarev indicating otherwise.  Talking to Sulim, Bondarev claims he’s just angry he wasn’t promoted, his father illegally got him into the elite Lipetsk unit, and warns him that his fellow servicemen will kill him when they lose their premium pay.  The tape also showed that Sulim only wants to resign because of the corruption, not for personal reasons, as Bondarev claims. 

In fact, Sulim hopes to continue serving.

Gazeta.ru focused on Bondarev’s comment that it’s possible violations at Lipetsk are administrative rather than criminal [which would make Kovalskiy no more guilty than Smirnov or Sulim].  Bondarev claims Major Kubarev retracted his support for Sulim [Kubarev’s also being reported as Kubyrev].

Gazeta then talked to Sulim, who points out Bondarev only investigated in the 3rd squadron, not in the 1st or 4th squadrons, because the leadership is trying to limit the damage, and to make it look like it’s one squadron’s problem, and not a base-wide scheme.

You can see Bondarev’s own words in his 24 May interview with Ekho moskvy.

The RVSN actually moved out on this scandal before the Defense Ministry:

“Taking into account the recent events in one of the RF Defense Ministry’s units,  connected with the illegal collection of money from servicemen, and to preclude the occurrence of similar situations in RVSN units, RVSN Commander, General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev has decided to establish permanently functioning commissions in every missile army to prevent similar legal violations.”

The press release said commissions will conduct anonymous surveys of officers and their families, and also look for this during inspections.  But there might already be a lot of work to do.

Look at the impassioned comment a retired RVSN lieutenant colonel left on the webpage for Olga Bozhyeva’s interview with Sulim and Smirnov:

“Such kickbacks go on THROUGHOUT Russia’s VS [Armed Forces]!!  It would be possible to jail ALL commanders of ALL units in Russia in good conscience!!”

“I live in the military town of an RVSN division.  Many of my acquaintances are still serving.  Previously they included ONLY SELECTED ‘RELIABLE’ officers in the order for the annual receipt of this mad money (extra MONTHLY pay up to 160-200 thousand rubles!!!) — but not more than 30% of the unit’s officers.  EVERYONE knows that they collect ‘tribute’ from this money paid according to MO RF Order № 400:  and who gets it, and who doesn’t, and their wives, and the osobisty (FSB), and the prosecutors, and even conscript soldiers [know who gets it]!!  And such corruption arranges EVERYTHING — it’s clear that both prosecutors and osobisty get it!  And it also arranges the officers who give the most ‘tribute’ — refuse to pay, they find a reason and deprive you of this mad, undeserved money!!!”

“Of course there’s hostility among officers, and their wives because of the payment of this money!  You bet!  Of two similar officers fulfilling similar duties, one gets SEVERAL TIMES more!!  Not 2, 3, 5, 10, or 20 thousand rubles a months more, but several times more!!!  Meanwhile, it’s usually not the best, but the ‘reliable’ one who will ‘kickback’ money without a fuss!!”

“THIS UNDERMINES ALL FOUNDATIONS of the Russian Army and its COMBAT READINESS!!  ONLY AN ENEMY OF RUSSIA could think up such a thing!!”