Category Archives: Military Housing

Big Stories of 2014

Just before Christmas, RIA Novosti took a cut at identifying the big military stories of 2014.

A daunting, but intriguing task.  Here’s what it came up with:

  1. Acceptance of proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Vladimir Monomakh.  That’s unit three.  RIAN also puts five pending Bulava SLBM launches, including from Monomakh, on its list.
  2. Acceptance of the lead unit of proyekt 885 Yasen-class SSN Severodvinsk.
  3. Construction of a new National Command and Control Center for State Defense.
  4. Acceptance of the Ratnik future soldier system.
  5. One-Time Monetary Payments (or YeDV) for servicemen owed permanent apartments.  It’s supposed to end the housing line forever.
  6. Flexible pricing in the State Defense Order.  Starting in 2014, some contracts may be for a fixed price while others will be figured on what was actually spent to produce end items.
  7. Formation of an aerobatic flying group with new Yak-130 trainers.
  8. State acceptance testing for the T-50 / PAK FA.
  9. Continued, gradual rearmament to the level of 30 percent modern weapons and equipment in all forces.
  10. Formation of 16 new medical companies (to expand to 50 over the next 18 months).  A special mobile medical (medevac) brigade will be formed in each military district.
  11. Conscripts from reestablished sports companies slated to compete in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

By way of context, here’s what RIAN predicted for the big stories of 2013:  end of explosive destruction of old munitions, Bulava / Borey / Yasen, Vikramaditya [ex-Gorshkov] handover, Putin’s promise to end the military’s housing problem, Shoygu’s pledge to turn MOD property matters over to Rosimushchestvo, Armata tank and related platforms, T-50 / PAK FA testing, creation of Concern “Kalashnikov” and the new AK-12, the Russian DARPA — Fund for Future Research, Oboronservis criminal cases in court, and Zapad-2013.

Interesting to consider how much (or how little) movement occurred on these issues last year.

Wind Blows Hard Across Iturup

Recently saw a compelling piece in Smartnews.ru.

Had not heard of the site, but its text and photos vividly convey the plight of the inhabitants of Russia’s unneeded military towns.

Military Settlement Gornyy on Iturup (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Military Settlement Gornyy on Iturup (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Five hundred residents of Gornyy, a military settlement on Iturup in the Kuril chain, have appealed for help to resettle them or fix their broken down homes.  Iturup is the northernmost of the four southern Kuril islands which Japan  claims as its Northern Territories.

Gornyy on Iturup Island

Gornyy on Iturup Island

Smartnews writes that the Ministry of Defense still controls Gornyy, but only in a formal sense.  In reality, it has “thrown away” these former colleagues.

Local authorities want to help, but don’t have a legal right.  They can’t spend money on territory still belonging to the MOD.  They aren’t allowed to replace drafty old windows in buildings under a regional initiative called “Warm Windows.”  The Sakhalin Oblast Duma has appealed to Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on Gornyy’s behalf.

Forces deployed here, units of the 18th Machine Gun-Artillery Division, were withdrawn from the area, but residents remained with no one to maintain their apartment buildings.

A Building in Gornyy (photo:  ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

A Building in Gornyy (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Those who could left.  Those not expecting an apartment elsewhere from the MOD, or with nowhere to go otherwise, mostly military pensioners and their families, stayed behind.  Those with jobs work mainly at nearby Burevestnik airfield, built when the Japanese still controlled Iturup.  They will probably become unemployed when a new airport opens on the Sea of Okhotsk side of the island in the not-too-distant future.

One retiree says the once thriving settlement is now like a cemetery.  Some buildings are completely empty.  Their broken windows look like eyes.  The wind blows through neighboring apartments.  He continues:

“. . . we don’t have street cleaning or trash collection.  But mainly, there’s no future.  It’s hard on the morale, it’s simply dying — the feeling that you served at the very edge of the country, protected it, and now no one needs you.”

Officials don’t even come to Gornyy because you can’t pass through it.  It’s the most remote populated place on Iturup.  It’s 50 km to the rayon center (Kurilsk) and the MOD owns the road and isn’t in a hurry to maintain it.

An oblast Duma deputy says:

“It’s not easy living there for the military, I have complaints from several:  the boys have left, there is no one to register them [as legal residents in internal passports], no one can get medical insurance, or even vote in elections.  So people live, although there is some infrastructure there — a school, kindergarten, stores, but they don’t want to live there.”

Local authorities do what they can, arranging traveling medical care for people in Gornyy.

But ultimately, Smartnews writes, neither Gornyy nor Sakhalin can decide anything, the MOD needs to make a final determination on its property and clarify the fate of those living in the settlement.

Some former military in Gornyy, however, still hope the MOD will deploy an S-400 unit near their settlement and revitalize it.

Gornyy is an extreme case, but still similar to that of thousands of other military towns as well as many neglected and forgotten civilian settlements.

Another Housing Deadline Missed

Or about to be missed.

Recall some background on Russia’s military housing issue.

In 2012, President Vladimir Putin publicly set his latest deadlines for resolving the military’s housing problems:  2013 for permanent apartments and 2014 for service apartments.  He just awarded himself an extra year on each.  They had been 2012 and 2013.  And 2012 and 2013 weren’t even his original deadlines.

When Sergey Shoygu came to the Defense Ministry last November, he faced at least 80,000 men, officers and former officers, in line for permanent apartments owed them on retirement.

The MOD says there were approximately 60,000 needing them at the beginning of 2013.

The Defense Ministry’s Chief of the Housing Support Department (DZhO or ДЖО) Sergey Pirogov has only been on the job about a month.  Previously DZhO’s deputy chief, he replaced his boss – Galina Semina – a Serdyukov appointee.

Sergey Pirogov

Sergey Pirogov

On 1 October, Pirogov told the RF Public Chamber that 41,400 servicemen will receive permanent apartments in 2013.  He claimed 16,200 already have this year, and 25,200 will receive them in November and December.

There is simply no way the MOD can put more than 25,000 in apartments during the balance of this year.  Despite Pirogov’s statement, there is probably no one who believes him.

Pirogov has called permanent housing a continually “flowing” problem; 24,700 new men joined the line in 2012 and 9,900 this year.

The MOD grapples with its housing problem using two instruments – apartments in their “natural form” or generally despised GZhS, State Housing Certificates.  It also hopes soon to make the One-Time Monetary Payment (YeDV or ЕДВ) a possibility.

If the Finance Ministry will agree on an amount, and the Duma approves some legislation this fall, the YeDV might start on 1 January.  It would be figured on the cost of a square meter of housing, years served, and household size, and presumably won’t be less than 3 million rubles and military men hope it’s a lot, lot more.

In mid-September, Pirogov effectively admitted the military department came to the idea of the YeDV in order to get around the problem of massive corruption in military housing construction.

He also appeared on Ekho Moskvy’s Voyennyy sovet program, and said:

“It’s perfectly obvious that the one-time payment to receive apartments is needed to resolve the issue at once.  Moreover, some universalism is necessary here, a universal mechanism should develop equal rights for all servicemen.  In our opinion, an exit from the difficult situation could be the transition to presenting one-time monetary payments, to acquire or build housing for servicemen, the so-called YeDV.  On what is this based?  Well, look here, according to those figures which the MOD leadership has more than once voiced.  Annually we are paying servicemen, at the disposition [of their commanding officers], a huge amount…  We can’t dismiss a serviceman before providing him housing, and are forced to put him in so-called disposition, and in this case the serviceman receives [rank] pay, he can use sanitorium-resort support, other privileges, given to servicemen, but he can’t be dismissed from the armed forces if he doesn’t have housing.  And in this instance, the MOD will spend up to 30 billion rubles a year supporting our servicemen.  It’s bitter to have to say that the problem of providing housing is long-running enough, and a serviceman can be at the disposition 5 or more years.  And here about that sum which I named, if we multiply it by a quantity of years, we get a simply enormous sum, which the MOD pays out fulfilling its obligations, this is the first conclusion.  The second conclusion is the resources which the MOD actually spends on construction are also enormous.  By any evaluation, it’s on the order of 30 billion rubles a year.  But consider that on average it takes 2-2.5 years to build an apartment block, half a year goes to the necessity of drawing up documents.  And it turns out that 3 years properly here this money is here, it’s hung up, it’s not realized so to say.  Yes, they spent it, on building apartments, they so to say laid it out in such a way.  But even the optimization of additional expenditures, particularly with apartment upkeep.  I also would like to introduce an example, in 2012 we had more than 10 thousand frozen for various reasons, not occupied by servicemen.  It’s natural so to say that these apartments require their upkeep.  But in this case, if we didn’t turn off or didn’t turn on the heat properly, this in turn means correspondingly then already essential repair to newly-built, but not allocated apartments.  And this sum here — it becomes in principle very large and very significant for the MOD.  And more than this, even the colossal expended amounts, about which I already actually spoke, deciding the question with housing construction, we aren’t resolving the problem.”

Lots interesting here . . . Pirogov talks pretty clinically about those left “at the disposition,” but it’s a difficult life for an officer living in his garrison on a fourth of the pay he had when he had a duty post.  And, Pirogov says, the situation goes on a long time and costs up to 30 billion rubles per year. 

Pirogov says the MOD has also been spending 30 billion on housing construction, including on 10,000 unoccupied apartments.  But construction hasn’t solved the housing dilemma.

Maybe the housing situation has improved somewhat, but, as Pirogov admits, it’s still a long way from solved.  And Putin’s deadlines come and go and come again.

Shoygu’s Inherited Dilemmas

Shoygu and Serdyukov

Shoygu and Serdyukov

Before Russia’s holiday topor fully enshrouded military commentators, Gazeta’s Sergey Smirnov published an interesting piece on the situation in which Defense Minister Shoygu finds himself.  There isn’t a lot of great comment on Shoygu yet, but it might be cranking up.  Smirnov looks at how the popular Shoygu could mar his well-regarded career while tackling the same accumulated military structural problems that faced his predecessor.  He writes about possible bureaucratic and personal conflicts with Sergey Ivanov, Sergey Chemezov, and Dmitriy Rogozin.

Leftover Problem One:  Contract Service

According to Smirnov, Russia’s military added virtually no contractees in 2012, but still has to recruit 50,000 of them every year until 2017 to reach its assigned target of 425,000.  The obstacles are the same.  Eighty percent of them don’t sign a second contract because the army doesn’t offer living conditions more attractive than barracks.  Undermanning is a related problem.  Smirnov says the military’s manpower is certainly below 800,000.  And Shoygu may have to acknowledge this problem.

Leftover Problem Two:  Bureaucratic Competitors

Smirnov describes Serdyukov’s conflict with Rogozin over the OPK and its production for the military.  He claims the “Petersburg group” of Sergey Ivanov, Chemezov, and Viktor Ivanov wanted one of its guys to take Serdyukov’s place at the Defense Ministry.  But Putin didn’t want to strengthen them, so he took the neutral figure Shoygu.

According to Smirnov, Serdyukov wanted out, and wanted to head a new arms exporting corporation to replace Rosoboroneksport.  That, of course, conflicted directly with Chemezov and the interests of the “Petersburgers.”  And Smirnov makes the interesting comment:

“But that appointment [Serdyukov to head a new arms exporter] didn’t happen precisely because of the big criminal cases which arose not by accident.”

Was Serdyukov done in for overreaching rather than for corruption scandals in the Defense Ministry?

Shoygu, writes Smirnov, was not thrilled at the prospect of continuing the “not very popular” army reforms.  Smirnov is left at the same point as everyone else:  will it be a “serious revision” of Serdyukov’s reforms or a “course correction?”

There’s lots of talk to indicate the former rather than the latter.  The new VVS CINC has bloviated about returning to one regiment per airfield instead of large, consolidated air bases.  He claims the Krasnodar, Syzran, and Chelyabinsk Aviation Schools will be reestablished.  He babbles about going to a three-service structure and retaking VVKO.  Shoygu will allow Suvorov and Nakhimov cadets to march in the May 9 Victory Parade.  He stopped the Military-Medical Academy’s move out of the center of Piter.  Other commonly mentioned possible revisions are returning to six MDs and transferring the Main Navy Staff back to Moscow.

Leftover Problem Three:  Outsourcing

Serdyukov’s outsourcing policy led to scandals, and didn’t work for the Russian military’s remote bases.  Gazeta’s Defense Ministry sources say the structure and activity of Oboronservis will likely be greatly modified or, less likely, Oboronservis will be completely disbanded if some workable entity can take its place.

Leftover Problem Four:  Military Towns

The military wants municipal authorities to take over the vast majority (70-90 percent) of a huge number of old military towns (that once numbered 23,000) no longer needed by Armed Forces units.  The army only wants some 200 of them now.

The local government wants the military to provide compensation to restore and support these towns, but the latter doesn’t have the funds.  The army is laying out billions of rubles in the next three years, but only to outfit 100 military towns it wants to use.  There is also the problem of who gets, or has the power to give away, legal title to this military property.

Leftover Problem Five:  Officer Housing

Shoygu, says Smirnov, has to solve the unresolved problem of officer housing, especially for officers “left at disposition” of their commanders (i.e. not retired but lacking duty posts and apartments).  The Defense Ministry still doesn’t know how many need housing.  Smirnov writes:

“Despite the fact that the military department daily reports on the handover of apartments, the line of officers retired from the army who are awaiting receipt of living space is not becoming smaller.  At present from 80 to 150 [thousand] former officers are awaiting the presentation of housing.”

More than enough lingering headaches for one Defense Minister.

Defense Policy Reset?

RF President Vladimir Putin last week held the first meeting of his third term to discuss military priorities with senior uniformed officers.

President Putin

He looked less impressive, and less in command of his brief in the video of his introductory remarks than on similar past occasions.

But he clearly laid out his main concerns for Russia’s top Armed Forces leaders:  training, Aerospace Defense Troops, rearmament, contract manning, pay, and housing.

He seemed confounded by the Defense Ministry’s failure to pay new, higher military salaries on time, and by the continuing lag in providing housing to servicemen.  He said his Control Directorate is investigating both situations.

Taking it from the top, Putin said the state of military training and exercises today is completely changed from past years when the Armed Forces were rarely active.  The president twice emphasized conducting joint exercises with Russia’s allies in the CSTO, CIS, and SCO.

His second priority is developing the newly created and reformed Aerospace Defense Troops.

His third is rearmament.  He repeated the familiar goal of replacing 30 percent of weapons and equipment with new generation systems over the next three years (2015), and 70, or in some cases 100, percent five years after that (2020).  And he added:

“I ask you to report promptly about all instances of breakdowns or incomplete deliveries, if you identify them.  Everyone participating in Gosoboronzakaz work must bear personal responsibility.”

The fourth priority is manning, and the earlier announced effort to increase professional soldiers in the ranks to 425,000.  This, he says, would increase their numbers two and a half times, reportedly from 170,000 today.  Putin made the customary comments about carefully screening and selecting enlisted troops, and giving them incentives to serve well.

Fifth and finally, Putin emphasized efforts to provide better social support for servicemen, specifically, this year’s increase raising military pay by up to three times, and his attempt to provide all military men permanent housing in 2013 and service housing by 2014.  He said:

“Sufficient resources have been allocated for this, the necessary amount has been reserved.”

“But I have to note that, to this point, there are many problems in the provision of housing and calculation of pay, unacceptable breakdowns and procrastination, open professional negligence by officials.  And even if on paper and in reports everything is normal, in fact in real life servicemen and their families at times encounter various kinds of bureaucratic procrastination, often with a formalistic indifferent approach.”

“I’ve directed the Russian Federation President’s Control Directorate to conduct a corresponding check in all these areas.  Unacceptable facts are being encountered, already in the first stages of this check this is clear:  this is both delays in the transmission of pay, and the impossibility of normally finalizing the paperwork for an apartment.  Fitting conclusions will be drawn according to the results of the check, and instructions will be formulated.  But today already I’m asking Defense Ministry representatives to report what measures are being adopted to correct the situation.  May is ending, and normal work with pay still hasn’t been smoothed out.  We already talked about these issues more than once.”

Where are outside observers left?

  • Training and exercises have increased as a function of more budget and fuel, but this didn’t happen until the late 2000s.
  • Aerospace Defense Troops are another structural reorganization, potentially a good one, not unlike other reorganizations since the 1990s.
  • Rearmament is a serious downfall.  Despite the Putin factor, nothing really happened on this score until late 2009.  It’s complicated by the difficulties of fixing a dilapidated OPK.  And, although there may be some favorable signs, success here remains to be seen.
  • Contract service is a second serious downfall.  Putin’s first effort to professionalize the army started in 2002.  The General Staff Chief declared it a dismal failure eight years later.  The Defense Minister revived it on an enlarged scale one year after that.  Demographic reality and draft problems leave Moscow no other choice.
  • Low military pay is a downfall.  It became more of a realistic priority with Serdyukov’s arrival in the Defense Ministry, but it was still five long years before the new, higher pay system was implemented.  And Putin admits how poorly it’s functioning.
  • Housing is also a downfall.  Despite progress since Putin first really addressed the issue in 2005, it’s still problematic.  And the president publicly moved back his timetable for a solution.

The downfall areas are problems requiring a long-term, sustained commitment to resolve.  Putin 2.0 is wrestling with the same military issues he identified back in 2000.  It’s still far from certain he can or will bring them to a successful conclusion.

This author believes there’s been progress on Russia’s military issues during the 12 years of Putin’s time as national leader.  But future economic or political challenges could derail progress toward rebuilding the country as a full-scope military power.

Is Putin resetting or rebooting defense policy?  Yes, at least jumpstarting it on key issues.  But a restarted or jumpstarted computer, car, or policy usually works (or doesn’t work) the same way it did before it stalled.  So this isn’t necessarily the path to a successful finish.  But no one ever said making and implementing policy was easy.

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from April 17-18, 2012 . . .

Militaryparitet.com provided a link to an interesting Livejournal site.  The latter’s apparently been scouring government tender offers, and located one worth 600 million rubles for work to upgrade Votkinsk for Yars ICBM production.

According to RIA Novosti, a Rosoboroneksport official says talks with China about selling the Su-35 are frozen because the PRC wants to buy only a limited number of the new fighters.

Interesting that France, Italy, etc. don’t use the same logic when Moscow talks about purchasing samples.

Vzglyad.ru covered the release of SIPRI’s global military expenditure report for 2011.  The U.S. spent 41 percent of the world’s total, China 8, Russia 4.

Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov talked to the Federation Council about military housing.  He told Senators 60,000 permanent and service apartments were ready to be occupied at the beginning of this year.  See TV Zvezda coverage.

At least for the camera, Pankov didn’t offer an explanation why such a large number were waiting to be occupied.

22nd Army Commander, General-Major Sergey Yudin’s traded his command for a staff job.  He’s now the Chief, OMU for the Western MD.  See Mil.ru.

Putin and the Army (Part II)

Putin Eating with Soldiers

Continuing with Prime Minister Putin’s latest pre-election article on the army . . . Russia Today published a translated version.

Describing the army’s “social dimension,” Putin says a modern army requires well-trained officers and soldiers on whom more demands can be placed.  And they, in turn, deserve pay commensurate with that of specialists and managers elsewhere in the economy.

Hence, the new pay system for officers this year which practically tripled their remuneration.

Putin mentions that military pensions were increased 1.6 times (60 percent), and he promises they will now increase annually by not less than 2 percent over inflation.

Retired or dismissed servicemen will get a “special certificate” good for further education or for retraining.

Then Putin tackles the painful military housing issue.  After recounting its history, he says, in 2008-2011, the army obtained or constructed 140,000 permanent and 46,000 service apartments.  But he admits:

“. . . despite the fact that the program turned out to be larger in scale than earlier planned, the problem still wasn’t resolved.”

He says the accounting of officers needing apartments was conducted poorly, org-shtat measures [dismissals] weren’t coordinated with the presentation of housing, and the situation has to be corrected.

Putin is, of course, alluding to the fact that maybe 30,000 or 80,000 of those 140,000 apartments the Defense Ministry acquired or built remain unoccupied.  But he’s not exactly tackling the problem head-on.

Putin says the “eternal” permanent and service apartment problems will finally be resolved in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

But in mid-December, in his “live broadcast,” Putin said his new deadlines were 2012 and 2013.  So, he’s just given himself an extra year on each.

Putin says the military’s mortgage savings program now has 180,000 participants, and 20,000 apartments have been acquired through it.

He also notes that regions and municipalities won’t have broken down military towns and infrastructure foisted upon them.

Next, manning. 

Putin gives the familiar figures–there are 220,000 officers and 186,000 sergeants and soldiers who now serve on contracts.  Over five years, the army will try to recruit 50,000 professional soldiers each year. 

Selection, Putin says, will be strict, and contractees will be trained in special centers and sergeant schools.

In the reported one-million-man Russian Armed Forces, 700,000 personnel will be professionals by 2017.  Conscripts will be reduced to 145,000 by 2020.

Putin says the mixed contract-conscript system of manning used for quite some time was just a compromise because Russia couldn’t afford an all-volunteer army.

However, politicians and generals always extolled the mixed system because it retained a universal obligation (at least theoretically) and kept the military from becoming “mercenaries.”

Putin endorses military police and priests in the ranks to keep order among remaining conscripts.  He also promises those who serve as draftees assistance with education and preferences in entering the government service.

The Prime Minister admits Russia lacks a concept for its national military reserve system, and developing one is a near-term task.

Although the course is set for a professional contract army, Putin still wants young men to prepare for service.  So don’t forget about military-patriotic indoctrination, military-applied sports, and DOSAAF.

And Putin indicates he supports Deputy PM Dmitriy Rogozin’s proposal for a Volunteer Movement of the National Front in Support of the Army, Navy, and OPK.

Part III will be the final five pages on the OPK.

Thickening Clouds

Deputy PM Rogozin and Serdyukov (photo: Yuriy Magas)

Anatoliy Serdyukov completed his fifth year as Russia’s Defense Minister on Wednesday (February 15).

But the inimitable Argumenty nedeli concludes “clouds are thickening” around him. 

AN says Serdyukov’s in the “eye of a storm” of PA cadre changes, and he’s begun sacrificing subordinates to save himself.

The paper’s Defense Ministry source claims there will be a large number of resignations from “support structures controlled by the military department,” i.e. the quasi-commercialized, civilianized logistic agencies established to outsource “non-core” military functions.

OAO Slavyanka – responsible for housing and communal services in military towns — will lose its general director, Aleksandr Yelkin, over poor winter preparations and boiler breakdowns in Murmansk, Kaliningrad, and the Far East. 

Not surprisingly, the source says this decision followed Prime Minister Putin’s harsh criticism of Serdyukov on February 9.  See Kommersant, Komsomolskaya pravda, Nezavisimaya gazeta, or Newsru.com for more on this.

The general director of Agroprom – an affiliate of OAO Oboronservis – Natalya Dynkova, lost her position for “redistributing” the military food procurement market.  Agroprom declined an AN request for comment on Dynkova’s situation.

AN’s source also says Serdyukov’s apparat chief [chief of staff] Yelena Vasilyeva is also “hanging by a thread.”  From detention, the indicted former chief of GVMU, General-Major Aleksandr Belevitin has given evidence against her. 

Several months ago, AN claimed dustups with Vasilyeva led to former Deputy Defense Minister Mokretsov’s departure as well as complaints from high-ranking civilians and officers.

Finally, AN’s officer source says the FSB is investigating and arresting some people connected to the Defense Ministry’s commercial structures.  He concludes Serdyukov is ridding himself of people who could compromise him or interfere with him finding a place in once-and-future president Putin’s new government this spring.

BFM.ru sounded a separate but similar note reporting that the chief of a firm entrusted with selling excess Defense Ministry property is suspected of fraud. 

General director of the “Expert” Legal Support Center, Ye. F. Smetanova  allegedly sold military property for reduced prices in exchange for kickbacks ranging from 5 to 25 percent of the transaction, according to the MVD.  She reportedly received 18 million rubles for endorsing the sale of four Samara Voyentorgy for 147 million. 

Investigators are trying to identify other Defense Ministry properties sold with kickbacks as well as possible co-conspirators in the schemes.

In 2011, the Defense Ministry conducted 43 auctions and sold real estate for 4.7 billion rubles.  Movable military property was sold to the tune of 560 million.

It’s worth recalling the Main Military Prosecutor’s words about the scale of Defense Ministry corruption in 2011.  He singled out commercial firms outsourcing for the military and violations of auction rules as particular problems, along with routine kickbacks and bribery.

Where does this leave us?

Things aren’t so rosy for Serdyukov right now. 

For one thing, Rogozin’s replacement of the virtually invisible Sergey Ivanov has probably been a near-daily irritation for the Defense Minister.

Even after five years, it’s still hard to get a handle on all the military’s “financial flows.” 

And resignations and reports of corruption don’t reflect well on Serdyukov.

Still, Serdyukov remains a member of Team Putin, and he’s probably secure.  The election season makes everyone nervous, and it’s hard to say who’s driving corruption charges.  Shaking out some incompetent or corrupt defense officials might serve to create the impression that Prime Minister Putin’s on top of things.

Another Angle on Apartments

Apartment Owners Say No to Putin (Photo: Novyy region -- Yekaterinburg)

Here’s a different angle on why finished military apartments are unoccupied.  Last week Novyy region told the story of how apartments for military men in Yekaterinburg got tangled up with apartments for private buyers, leaving the latter standing in front of a huge sign saying “No to Putin!” and vowing not to vote for him on March 4.

The tale goes like this.  In 2005, the Defense Ministry engaged the Megapolis construction-investment company to build a 254-unit apartment building for military unit 61207, which looks to be a nearby Railroad Troops brigade. 

The building was supposed to be ready in 2008, but construction dragged out, reportedly as a result of rising costs.  To complete its work, Megapolis said it needed to sell some of the apartments which it did.  These civilian owners, however, have keys to apartments they can’t occupy.

As a result of the dispute with the company, the Defense Ministry has refused to sign commissioning papers for the building, or turn on the electricity and gas.  The private owners have appealed for help at every possible level, and are now demanding that Defense Minister Serdyukov and Prime Minister Putin intervene.  In a statement to the media, the frustrated owners said:

“We shareholders, as consumers, legally paid for our apartments several years ago.  We don’t have any relationship to the Defense Ministry or the Megapolis company, but because of their dispute we can’t get into our own homes.”

“It seems the building was fully constructed in December 2011, live it up, rejoice.  But the bureaucratic procrastination arises.  That is the system developed, among others, by Vladimir Putin simply doesn’t want to work for the good of the people.  So the question arises — why should we vote for Putin?”

This scenario of Defense Ministry contractors selling some apartments on the open market has produced similar confrontations in several cities.

No word on how the servicemen are faring in the wait for their apartments.  Presumably they’ve remained in whatever service housing they had, and can’t be dismissed until they take delivery of their apartments.

Why They’re Empty

Well, mostly empty.  To its credit, Defense Ministry daily Krasnaya zvezda has tackled the issue of why Russian servicemen aren’t racing to take ownership and occupy permanent apartments offered to them.

KZ looked at two major military housing projects outside St. Petersburg — Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha — which between them have over 100 buildings and almost 9,000 apartments.  The paper says only 40 percent of these apartments have been accepted, and only 20 percent occupied.

Slavyanka South and Osinovaya Roshcha North of St. Petersburg

Slavyanka’s construction was complete one year ago, but its streets are empty and one very rarely sees pedestrians.  Its school just opened, but residents are still waiting for day care and have to drive preschool children elsewhere.  The builders claim there are relatively few defects, and they are repaired quickly.

A Street in Slavyanka Last March

Osinovaya Roshcha was built on Defense Ministry land — a former military town, and its apartments were turned over about six months ago.  Like Slavyanka, the dwellings in this development don’t suffer from too many problems.
 
KZ says now on average about 150 apartments are being accepted every week in Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha.  But this is still a slow pace.  Servicemen aren’t in a hurry to relocate because of the undeveloped infrastructure in both locations. 
 
There is no walking access to grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, or bank branches.  The nonresidential first floors of buildings haven’t been sold or leased to businesses.  Neither the developer nor rayon administration can make arrangements for these commercial spaces because the property belongs to the Defense Ministry.
 
In Osinovaya Roshcha, it’s already clear there will be a major parking problem once the mikrorayon is fully settled.  Some parking was planned but hasn’t been built.  Also, the area depends on narrow two-lane Priozerskoye shosse as a main road.
 
KZ says the biggest headache in Osinovaya Roshcha, however, are nonworking elevators.  Some buildings are 17 stories, and current residents can count on having an operational elevator only one day per week.  The paper describes a Catch-22.  People don’t move in because elevators aren’t working, but there aren’t enough residents there to pay communal fees to cover the work of crews who fix the elevators.
 
The wait for day care centers keeps many families from moving.  They are supposed to open this month in Osinovaya Roshcha.  Older kids go to school in two shifts at an old building while they wait for a new one. 
 

KZ sums up:

“Judging by everything, people don’t intend to give up distant garrisons until life in the new mikrorayony is smoothed out and all essential infrastructure develops.” 

All in all, Internet photos seem to support KZ’s description of Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha as generally well-constructed, livable communities.