Tag Archives: Oboronservis

Long Road from Witness to Accused

Serdyukov in a Contemplative Moment

Serdyukov in a Contemplative Moment

It’s time to update the legal situation of former Defense Minister, military reformer, and “witness” to enormous corruption right under his nose, Anatoliy Serdyukov.

On these pages, it’s been said there’s no way Serdyukov can escape the prosecutors and jail.  That assessment may have been hasty. 

It reflects a vain hope that even Russia, with it’s unbelievable corruption and light regard for the rule of law, will indict and convict someone too smart and too financially savvy not to know what his “women’s battalion” was doing with MOD property and shares in the quasi-military companies of Oboronservis.

Someone who clearly knew how various schemes involving his brother-in-law and military property would look if unearthed.

In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, politics and clan membership trumps law and everything else.  Serdyukov betrayed one of his benefactors by jilting his wife, Viktor Zubkov’s daughter, but remains free.  It must be Putin’s political calculation that keeps him out of prison.

Still, Serdyukov hasn’t been a cooperative witness; he’s practically been a suspect if we take the tone of what GVSU SKR investigators have told the media.

Last week Kommersant reviewed the facts regarding Serdyukov in an article on the GVSU SKR’s decision to prolong its investigation surrounding Zhitnoye until January 17.

The Oboronservis corruption investigations swirl around Serdyukov, but haven’t been directly connected to him.  They will continue until March.

The Zhitnoye case bears the most direct involvement by Serdyukov, according to Kommersant.  The paper believes it’s still fully possible he could turn from witness to accused in this case.

Zhitnoye in Winter

Zhitnoye in Winter

The affair might have ended in September when Serdyukov’s brother-in-law Valeriy Puzikov and one of his partners returned this property worth 150 million rubles to two “autonomous departments” of the MOD.  The MOD would have thus suffered no injury.  But investigators in the case argued Zhitnoye didn’t go directly back to the MOD whose budget paid for improvements at the Volga resort.  Road and bridge construction and landscaping at Zhitnoye cost the MOD 15.5 million rubles.

Serdyukov's Brother-in-Law Valeriy Puzikov

Serdyukov’s Brother-in-Law Valeriy Puzikov

Puzikov fled Russia in February, so we may never hear what he would say if questioned.

GVSU investigators say Serdyukov’s former deputies and his other underlings say he personally supervised work on Zhitnoye, but the GVSU’s case is still directed against “unidentified MOD officials.”  Serdyukov signed paperwork about Zhitnoye, and visited 17 times, but doesn’t recall other circumstances about the property, so he remains a witness.

On Serdyukov’s personal involvement, Kommersant writes:

“That fact is obvious because the beneficiary of the former official’s [Serdyukov's] malfeasance was his close relative Valeriy Puzikov.”

“So it’s early to say that Anatoliy Serdyukov is no longer of interest in the military investigation. Moreover, sources close to the investigation led us to believe that evidence gathered on the case could completely influence a change in the ex-minister’s procedural status.  However, a political decision is required for this.”

For his part, Serdyukov’s lawyer says the MOD suffered no damages, and he calls the entire investigation a waste of time and resources.

The other two “Serdyukov dacha” cases weren’t mentioned in this latest round of news.

However, Rossiyskaya gazeta wrote last week about a St. Petersburg property that reportedly long interested Serdyukov — the gardener’s house on the grounds of the Tauride Palace.  Apparently, unknown persons acquired it for the MOD in 2008, then it was sold by Yevgeniya Vasilyeva’s people to a shadowy firm formed just months earlier for 384 million rubles.  There is suspicion the buyer was under Puzikov’s control.

Gardener's House on Grounds of Tauride Palace (photo: Kommersant / Sergey Semenov)

Gardener’s House on Grounds of Tauride Palace (photo: Kommersant / Sergey Semenov)

Izvestiya reported that “power” ministry representatives (i.e. primarily of course the SKR) were called to the PA and ordered to stop broadcasting PR about investigations like those involving Serdyukov and Oboronservis, “which don’t have a chance of being cracked.”

The paper’s source in the PA said unwinding these scandals creates a “negative image” of the authorities in the public’s mind.  This official continued:

“While high-profile corruption cases will not be brought to court, they shouldn’t be so zealously publicized in the media.  No one has yet been punished, investigative actions go on, and the common man is already getting an impression about the impunity of criminals and powerlessness of the law enforcement organs.”

This conversation was conducted, first and foremost (but not exclusively), about Oboronservis, although not Serdyukov by name.

Another PA source said siloviki shouldn’t “air” criminal cases featuring highly-placed officials and serious damage to the nation’s budget.

Commenting on the Oboronservis scandals, MGU criminal law professor Vladimir Kommissarov describes not just criminal conspiracies but an entire “organized community” of corruption:

“There are surely forces not interested in the development of this criminal case — any criminal case of such a scale can attract other criminal cases.  It’s possible for one person to steal a million, but when we talk about dozens and hundreds of millions, then obviously not simply an organized group is at work, but an organized community.”

Izvestiya concludes that the state’s anti-corruption policy [such as it is] is based on the inevitability of punishment for offenders.  And this is what law enforcement is demanding from the PA.  Correspondingly, it should be possible to expect that all big corruption cases could end with real terms for all suspects.

But Serdyukov remains at most a suspect.  Perhaps investigators are starting to close in on him.  He didn’t really talk to them until March when confronted with property documents he had signed.

It still appears Serdyukov’s fate is controlled at the highest level.  Putin apparently told SKR chief Aleksandr Bastrykin early on that he didn’t want to send the former Defense Minister to jail.  But investigators are pressing forward.  If they change Serdyukov’s status from witness to accused, then perhaps Putin isn’t the complete master of this game.

Air Forces Half Out-of-Order

"OAK-Service" Initial Corporate Structure (photo: Kommersant)

“OAK-Servis” Initial Corporate Structure (photo: Kommersant)

Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov and Yelena Kiseleva wrote Monday (28 October) on the status of devolving Oboronservis’ Aviaremont into a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation (OAK).  In the process, they indicated less than half of Russia’s combat airplanes are serviceable.

Aviaremont enterprises will become OAK-Servis subholdings.  The factories will repair aircraft for the Defense Ministry, and for other power ministries and agencies.  OAK and the MOD already have an 84-billion-ruble contract for repairs in place.  Meanwhile, Aviaremont owes the MOD 115 billion, which OAK has promised to make good.

OAK-Servis is supposed to provide life-cycle support for MOD (mainly VVS) airplanes.  And it will “correct an unfavorable situation in the condition of the current inventory of the Air Forces, which still aren’t guaranteeing the necessary level of technical combat readiness,” Kommersant writes.

OAK-Servis will establish service centers and 24-7 mobile repair teams, then, in 2015-2018, modernize capital equipment in its repair plants.  It will also grapple with a problem it can’t solve in the short-term, “the cessation of industrial output of components and systems used in the repair of old aircraft models and the rising price of spares and parts.”

But OAK believes it can ensure a profit for plants that once belonged to Aviaremont.  Ruslan Pukhov tells Kommersant less money in the next GPV means less procurement and more repairs and modernization after 2020.

Now for the interesting part . . .

In a sidebar, the authors describe the parlous state of technical readiness in the Air Forces.

All VVS units are supposed to be in “permanent readiness,” with not less than 80 percent of the airplanes in their established composition in a serviceable state.

But Safronov and Kiseleva report only 42 percent of VVS airplanes overall, and 49 percent of its combat airplanes, are serviceable.

The most serious situation with fitness for flying is found in Tu-160 and Tu-22 [Tu-22M3] bombers, the MiG-29 and MiG-25, An-22 transports, L-39 trainers, and others for which serviceability hovers around 20-25 percent.

In 2013, the VVS had 696 airplanes in need of repair, but as (or if) new ones reach the inventory toward 2020, the number in need of repair will reportedly decline to just 49.

The sidebar says, along with repairing MVD, FSB, and MChS platforms, OAK repair plants will also have to maintain and overhaul exported airplanes.

Recall for a moment the MOD’s Action Plan to 2020 . . . the section on equipping the armed forces indicated year-end VVS aircraft serviceability rates will be 55 percent in 2013, 75 percent in 2014, and 80 percent in 2015.

These numbers require pretty fast improvement.

Serdyukov Speaks to Investigators

Former Defense Minister Serdyukov apparently decided to speak to investigators last week, shifting his previous stance of taking the 51st or providing written statements.  Media outlets said the appearance of “new materials” caused the change in his tactics.

Last Monday, Newsru.com recapped a Kommersant story saying that Serdyukov’s signature was on documents transferring the Bolshoy Utrish property to his brother-in-law Valeriy Puzikov.  But investigators haven’t talked to the ex-minister about that case yet, which they say amounts to large-scale fraud by a group of conspirators.

Recall the Defense Ministry obtained this Black Sea coastal property near Anapa in 2010 to build a radar station, but, with the help of Yekaterina Smetanova, it was excessed for two-thirds of the military’s purchase price to Puzikov. 

According to Newsru.com from Tuesday, Serdyukov was called to the GVSU SKR to meet with investigators about the Zhitnoye dacha.  ITAR-TASS said he provided 11 pages of evidence, and claimed the Defense Ministry participated in this civilian project out of military “necessity.”

On Wednesday, Politkom.ru commentator Tatyana Stanovaya reported that the ex-Defense Minister talked to investigators for five hours.

She believes Putin doesn’t want Serdyukov to sit in jail, and anonymous media sources say he told SKR chief Aleksandr Bastrykin as much early on.  She sees it like this:

“It’s important for Putin to sort out the corruption cases, to intimidate the elite, but generally not to get worn out with real purges.  He recognizes corruption as an evil, but an unbeatable evil which is part of Russia’s historical tradition.  In other words, for Putin thievery is an insufficient basis for ‘sitting’ given the political loyalty of the ‘figure.'”

Bastrykin notwithstanding, the siloviki think they long since had enough evidence for Serdyukov’s prosecution. 

Stanovaya cites Kommersant’s report that the former minister decided to cooperate, to talk, because investigators recently conducted searches and seized documents on the case from his relatives.  The commentator believes his more constructive position improves his chances of escaping the affair without criminal charges.

If the existing affair of the three dachas weren’t enough, Nezavisimaya gazeta unearthed another issue last week.

In the deal to import light armored vehicles from the Italian firm IVECO, Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry allegedly conspired to avoid paying customs duties amounting to $10 million.  All for vehicles of questionable suitability for Russian conditions.  NG concludes charges will be brought against the Oboronservis officials involved in the purchase.   

The paper wonders out loud if Serdyukov will play a part in the regime’s anti-corruption campaign (such as it is): 

“A critical mass of dissatisfaction is accumulating.  The country’s leadership is turning into a hostage of its own effort to reprove part of the confused elite in this way.  Citizens have learned too much about the life of high officialdom so it’s possible the ‘valve could turn’ at any moment.  It’s possible for this besides the usual cosmetic means of a party-political character a serious sacrificial victim is required — if the process of disclosures goes far enough.  It’s possible that now some backstage casting for the role of such a victim is going on.”

Izvestiya provided details on Serdyukov’s personal involvement in building Puzikov’s resort on Zhitnoye, where he claimed officers could stay (but not for free) after air defense exercises at Ashuluk.  The former Defense Minister traveled to the site 17 times between 2010 and 2012, while the road construction and landscaping was in progress, on Air Forces helicopters leased to Chkalov Avia.  That company’s majority owner is Anna Tretyakova, and her mother Yelena is general director of Zhitnoye.

Former General Staff Chief Makarov reportedly told investigators he ordered railroad troops (v/ch 42677) to build the 6.7-kilometer road and three bridges on Serdyukov’s personal order.  The construction materials came from that unit. 
 
A law enforcement source told the paper Puzikov and Serdyukov didn’t miss a trick: 
 
“First they built themselves a dacha at government expense, and then they wanted to rent out the very same — also at government expense.”

Moskovskiy komsomolets concludes Serdyukov’s assertion that Zhitnoye would serve the needs of servicemen would be funny if it weren’t so sad.  Then:

“So, as ‘MK’ has already written, Serdyukov must sit.  Otherwise Vladimir Putin can’t prove to 140 million Russian citizens that he is as before master of the situation.”

On balance, it seems prosecutors are closing on Serdyukov.  As written here in November, there’s too much blood in the water.  Putin will sacrifice him.  His effort to rebalance the political system he created depends on more than not letting the siloviki have Serdyukov.

And what of Serdyukov-instituted reforms which promised to change still largely Soviet Armed Forces into a more modern military?  The pain of reforms joined with the taint of high-level corruption to undermine them.  Their opponents could not possibly devise a more ingenious strategy to discredit them.  That too would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

If That Was Cosmic . . .

If 2011’s corruption figures for the armed forces were cosmic, what are 2012’s?

We usually get various prosecutors’ reports about this time.  This year’s no different.

Newsru.com picked up some of Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy’s comments on military corruption from the GVP’s web site.

The biggest issue, of course, is Oboronservis, 25 related criminal cases, and more than five billion rubles in damages to the state.  But those future facts and figures don’t play into Fridinskiy’s 2012 report.

In 2012, Fridinskiy said crimes by officers, as a share of the armed forces total, reached their highest level in 10 years — 30 percent.  The share of crimes by contract servicemen increased by 14 percent.

The overwhelming motive, said Fridinskiy, was greed, and losses to the state tripled to 11 billion rubles.

According to GVP data, every fifth crime involved corruption.  Losses from corruption exceeded seven billion rubles.  Bribery cases rose by a third.  Embezzlement and misappropriation by two times.  And fraud by almost 20 percent.

Three higher [general] officers and 210 senior officers, including 64 military unit commanders and chiefs of various facilities, were convicted of corruption-related offenses.

It’s All Relative (Part II)

Regret the delay in returning to the rest of this summary of the Oboronservis scandal from Newsru.com.

“The ‘Oboronservis’ Affair:  Figures and Episodes”

“Despite, more precisely, thanks to his unconstructive, in the SKR’s opinion, silence, Serdyukov continues to keep his witness status in the ‘Oboronservis’ affair.  At present the number of accused has reached eight.  And the charge of particularly large-scale fraud has been leveled at the former head of OAO ‘Oboronservis’ Vasilyeva (the restraint measure is house arrest), Smetanova (personal recognizance) and Zakutaylo (arrest).  Smetanova is also implicated in commercial bribery as a result of investigation of activity which the ‘Oboronservis’ affair initiated.”

“Another branch of the anticorruption investigation concerns OAO ‘Slavyanka’ and ZAO ‘Security and Communications.’  The three affairs, united into one case, arose over falsely signed statements of completed construction and cleaning work on Kolymazhnyy Lane, the Military Academy of the General Staff and a number of other facilities.  As of today in this affair the charge of particularly large-scale fraud has been leveled at five:  former general director of ‘Slavyanka’ and ‘Security’ founder Aleksandr Yelkin; Andrey Luganskiy, who has been general director of ‘Security’ since April 2011; ‘Security’ head bookkeeper Yuliya Rotanova.  And also Nikolay Ryabykh and Konstantin Lapshin — former acting chief of the Defense Ministry’s administrative directorate and chief of ‘Slavyanka’s’ repair department.  All of them are under arrest.”

“The largest part of criminal cases in ‘Oboronservis’ concerns the disposition of several pieces of property.  They are the complex of buildings ‘31st State Planning Institute of Special Construction’ and the ‘Main Directorate of Troop Installations,’ the hotel ‘Soyuz’ and the premises of OAO ‘Mosvoyentorg’ on the Arbat, buildings in the working-class village Bolshiye Vyazemy in Moscow Oblast, land plots in St. Petersburg.  Part of the matters arose over the facts of theft of money upon the conclusion of contracts with ‘Expert’ Smetanova, for example, in the sale of shares in Moscow-based ‘Central Experimental Production Combine’ and stakes in ООО ‘436th Non-Metallic Minerals Combine’ in Leningrad Oblast.”

“‘Thanks to timely intervention we succeeded in preventing the illegal, in our view, disposition of the building of the directorate of trade of the Moscow Military District on Bolshaya Serpukhovskaya Street in Moscow, and also the oil transshipping complex in the village of Roslyakovo-1 in Murmansk Oblast,’ – GVSU Chief Sorochkin boasted to ‘Rossiyskaya gazeta.’  He also recalled that today the general amount of losses, suffered by the state in the ‘Oboronservis’ affair, exceeded four billion rubles.”

“Serdyukov’s Brother-in-Law Could be Called for Questioning”

“So, investigators tactfully sidestep the question of whether the appearance of new figures and still more accused in the ‘Oboronservis’ affair is expected.  There are already a number of candidates to populate the list.  For example, there’s Marina Lopatina, ex-chief of OAO ‘Voyentorg’ and the ‘Red Star’ subholding.  But also head of ‘Oboronstroy’ Larisa Yegorina.  Both ladies are thought to be former classmates of Vasilyeva and at present are alleged to be on the run.”

“There are suspicions that Serdyukov’s brother-in-law is also on the run, still, it’s true, investigators are not confirming this information.  ‘I don’t have unambiguous information about this.  I confirm that we have questions for him, therefore he could be interrogated,’ – Sorochkin said.”

“Petersburg’s ‘Fontanka’ relays interesting facts from Puzikov’s life.  ‘No stranger to the family furniture business, Puzikov managed to achieve notable commercial successes also in the automobile business and in construction, and the amount of property he’s acquired is striking,’ – the article’s author notes.”

“According to the publication’s information, the Kuban native Puzikov built an expensive development where his neighbor found a space for Serdyukov’s OAO ‘Furniture-Market’ (the former ‘Lenmebeltorg’).  At the same address nine companies, fully or partly controlled by Puzikov, appeared, for example, OOO ‘Avtotsentr Soyuz 021.’  The auto business generally attracted Puzikov’s attention, ‘Fontanka’ notes.  So, he owns 15% of OOO ‘Aksel Group’ – a large dealer of BMW, Volkswagen and Toyota automobiles, one of the showrooms of which is located in the very same expensive development.  Incidentally, also located there is OOO ‘Avtoservis-MM,’ where Viktor Zubkov, father of Serdyukov’s wife Yuliya Zubkova bought a Toyota Land Cruiser, ‘Fontanka’ writes.”

“The publication also reports that Puzikov together with Aleksandr and Petr Usov and Artur Pozov was involved in construction, and also bought up property in Leningrad Oblast.  According to YEGRYUL [Unified State Register of Juridical Persons] data, today limited liability companies ‘Alyans’ (until 2012 – ‘Furniture-Market’), ‘Petersburg Agricultural Corporation,’ ‘Contemporary Food Technologies,’ ‘Investproyekt,’ ‘KRIOS’ fully belong to Puzikov, he has shares in OOO ‘Novyy Megapolis,’ ‘TrestStroyKomplekt’ and ‘InterVal.’  An OOO with the classic name ‘Vektor-SPb,’ in which Puzikov was the only participant, no longer belongs to him, but the firm remained in the larger family [?!] of the ex-defense minister — now its owner is Yevgeniya Vasilyeva, ‘Fontanka’ concludes.”

Happy Defender’s Day

It's Not a Search (photo: Polit.ru)

It’s Not a Search (photo: Polit.ru)

Nervous times for some in the Defense Ministry.

The mail delivery woman knocks on the Defense Ministry’s door and says, “Open up, don’t be afraid!  It’s not a search.  It’s a postcard for 23 February.”

It’s a Defender’s Day greeting with a tank and red star, reading “I congratulate you on 23 February . . . .”

Cartoonist Sergey Yelkin (Yolkin, Elkin, Ёлкин, Елкин) is a Russian national treasure however you spell his name.

To this English speaker’s fingers, reaching for and finding the Ё key is akin to a holy fool wandering from Moscow to Anadyr.

Yes, if one had a category for Cheap Posts, this would be filed there.

It’s All Relative (Part I)

Serdyukov in More Ebullient Times (photo: Russianlook.com)

Serdyukov in More Ebullient Times (photo: Russianlook.com)

The SK tried again Tuesday to question former Defense Minister Serdyukov about the disposition of military property near the resort town of Anapa.  But, as Interfaks reported, Mr. Serdyukov once more invoked his 51st article right against incriminating himself or close relatives.  And RF Prosecutor General Yuriy Chayka told the Duma the entire Defense Ministry corruption affair now adds up to 25 criminal cases and more than 5 billion rubles in losses to the state.

Newsru.com nicely wraps the state of play in the Defense Ministry scandal.  It’s entitled “Relatives Saving Serdyukov:  Investigators Address the Affair’s Outlook, Journalists — His Family Business Ties.”

“The inquest has brought preliminary investigative results in the ‘Oboronservis’ corruption affair, whose episodes and figures have grown so strongly for several months it’s no wonder people are confused.  The results are as yet inauspicious — the figures are silent, shielding themselves with the Constitution, or they are fleeing the country.  But, investigators note, it’s premature to say the affair will begin to subside and the former defense minister will remain in his previous status [witness].  And journalists meanwhile are trying to unscramble the great tangle of family ties enmeshing the corruption affair.”

“‘Serdyukov is going through this affair as a (‘landscaping’) witness.  To make any supposition concerning his procedural status in the future is incorrect, at a minimum.  I can assure readers of only one thing — professionals who will sort out this affair perfectly and will precisely name everyone who is guilty in what has happened work in the SKR’s Main Military Investigative Directorate [GVSU],’ director of the SKR’s Main Military Investigative Directorate Aleksandr Sorochkin told ‘Rossiyskaya gazeta’.”

“The business about improving recreation facility ‘Zhitnoye’ which belongs to Anatoliy Serdyukov’s brother-in-law Valeriy Puzikov, as is known, is not the only one on which the inquest has concrete questions for the ex-minister. But they still haven’t managed to get his statements on this episode or on others.  As is known, on 19 February Serdyukov, together with his girlfriend and ex-chief of the Defense Ministry’s property department Yevgeniya Vasilyeva, was called for questioning on episodes involving land near Anapa and the activity of the St. Petersburg engineering-technical center, which the already earlier mentioned Puzikov directed.  But both refused to talk, citing the 51st article of the Constitution on the right not to bear witness against oneself and relatives.”

“If all three figures weren’t relatives [sic?], then investigators could make them criminally responsible according to art. 308 UK RF (‘Refusal of witness or victim to give statements’), levy a fine and even arrest them for a term up to three months, ‘Kommersant’ notes.  In this way, family ties have saved the ex-minister from potentially dangerous outcomes.”

“In a conversation with ‘RG’ the main military investigator presented the results by the number of episodes and figures well-known at present in the ‘Oboronservis’ affair.  As concerns Serdyukov, for him, the witness, there are immediate questions on the three ‘dacha’ episodes.”

“Serdyukov’s Three ‘Dachas'”

“The first is the ‘Zhitnoye’ recreation facility in Mouth of the Volga, owned by his brother-in-law, but managed by the mother of the CEO of OOO ‘Chkalov Avia’ Yelena Tretyakova, whom they earlier suspected of transporting facility guests and soldiers involved in its landscaping (‘ the aviation episode’) at Defense Ministry expense.”

“The second ‘recreational episode’ concerns a plot in Temryuk Rayon of Krasnodar Kray, where, it’s alleged, an elite vacation home was built on land illegally transferred from the Defense Ministry.  They’ve dubbed the facility with its grand buildings, pool, park, quay and helicopter pad served by locals ‘Serdyukov’s dacha’.  Considered instrumental in the acquisition of this former military land is the ex-chief of Moscow Air Forces District depot Maksim Zakutaylo — common law husband of Yekaterina Smetanova, ex-director of OOO ‘Expert’ Legal Support Center’ and accused in a number of other episodes.”

“And finally, there are questions for Serdyukov about the allegedly illegal disposition of military land in the village of Bolshoy Utrish near Anapa.  In 2009 the Defense Ministry wrung this territory out of itself for the construction of a radar station for Black Sea Fleet ships rebasing from Sevastopol, however built it up with cottages, ‘Kommersant’ writes.  According to some information, the personal signature of Serdyukov is on documents about the land’s transfer.  And the very same brother-in-law Puzikov worked on developing the property.”

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.

Still A Witness

Serdyukov on His Way to the SKR (photo: Kommersant / Dmitriy Dukhanin)

Serdyukov on His Way to the SKR (photo: Kommersant / Dmitriy Dukhanin)

For now.

On Friday, the Investigative Committee of Russia (SKR) subjected Anatoliy Serdyukov to a couple hours of questioning about the Oboronservis corruption scandal.  This session was scheduled when the former defense minister refused to answer questions on December 28 because his attorney was ill and not present.

Nothing much changed this time. 

Media accounts claim Serdyukov again effectively refused to answer SKR questions, taking the Russian version of the 5th (the 51st Article of the RF Constitution against self-incrimination).  He presented some written material to investigators describing the process of selling excess Defense Ministry property during his tenure.  But, according to Vedomosti, Serdyukov denied any wrongdoing, and placed blame for the sale of significantly undervalued and underpriced military real estate squarely and completely on his former subordinates (currently under indictment).

SKR patience with Serdyukov is wearing thin.  In fact, spokesman Vladimir Markin basically warned that he could become a suspect:

“In this situation, the former defense minister’s position might be regarded as an attempt to obstruct the investigation.  If the former defense minister believes he did not participate in those events which have become the subject of the investigation, then it would be fully logical to answer specific questions of interest to investigators.  But Mr. Serdyukov and his attorney believe it simpler to lay out a free form version of events in a light favorable to himself, and not to answer uncomfortable questions of substance for the investigators.  But in the investigation there is a large number of questions for Serdyukov about how decisions on the sale of Defense Ministry property were made, why deals were made at certain prices.”

“The position Mr. Serdyukov has taken does not guarantee that he will remain just a witness in the case.  It is fully probable his status could change.”

Kommersant and Interfax.ru reported Serdyukov claimed he signed off on paperwork for Defense Ministry property deals without looking into their “commercial aspects.”

A Kommersant source in the SKR admitted problems connecting Serdyukov to property sales or kickbacks.  However, he said investigators are looking at why Defense Ministry personnel and equipment built an 8-kilometer, 20-million-ruble road for a VIP resort in Astrakhan Oblast partly owned by the ex-defense minister’s brother-in-law, Valeriy Puzikov.  They’re also looking into high-priced Black Sea vacation homes built by Puzikov on Defense Ministry land.  

The SKR is apparently warming up charges against Serdyukov for exceeding and misusing his official authority. 

Investigators are clearly turning up the heat on Anatoliy Eduardovich.

Okryg.ru wrapped it succinctly:

“Serdyukov has a lot to be silent about.  Because if they’ve already decided to put him in jail, then helping the investigation is unrewarding.  Besides, it seems, the ex-minister still has a glimmer of hope that they will protect him.  Or, if you like, fight them off.”

“Judging by the reaction of official SK representative Vladimir Markin to the result of the second questioning, the Investigative Committee’s intention to put Serdyukov behind bars is practically unyielding.”

The blog calls Serdyukov a Putin creature who became “untouchable” but then got out of Putin’s control.  It concludes:

“The status of Anatoliy Serdyukov (witness or accused) depends not on what he said or was silent about, and not on how the investigator evaluated his answers or silence.  The fate of an official at such a level, at which Anatoliy Serdyukov dwelled, is decided exclusively in the Kremlin, that is, at the highest level.”

So will Putin see any reason to save Serdyukov, or will Putin leave him to the wolves?  Or can Putin control the wolves at this point?

Stories of the Year

RIA Novosti has its list of the main military events of 2012.

No surprise number 1 is the Oboronservis scandal, the fall of former Defense Minister Serdyukov, and appointment of successor Sergey Shoygu.

The rest:

  • 16 accidents in munition destruction leaving 12 dead and 23 injured.
  • Retirement of the CO of the Strizhi flight demonstration group who allegedly demanded money from subordinates for the freedom to show up for duty or not.  Remember Senior Lieutenant Sulim at Lipetsk?
  • Vityazi flight group doesn’t participate in Farnborough.
  • Ex-Gorshkov carrier still not delivered to India due to power plant problems.
  • Rearmament of RVSN with Yars and Topol-M ICBMs.  See Karakayev’s remarks the other day.
  • Acceptance of Dolgorukiy, Nevskiy, Bulava, and Severodvinsk all put off until 2013.
  • Delayed space vehicle launches, but fewer failures than in 2011.
  • The death of Ruslan Ayderkhanov.  A surprise pick.  Remember the army and medical examiners say he killed himself even though he was beaten and abused before he died.
  • The contract for five Borey SSBNs, and Prime Minister / President Putin’s role in getting the Defense Ministry and industry to agree on a price.
  • The collapse of Moscow’s $4.2 billion arms deal with Iraq amid talk of corruption.
  • Losing another Indian helicopter tender to the U.S.
  • Russia’s conference on EuroMD.