Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 12

Although the government is far from eliminating current wage and allowance arrears to Russian servicemen, political leaders have begun to talk of raising pay for members of the armed forces. Without mentioning any specific figures, President Boris Yeltsin yesterday said that military salaries would be increased this year in a process that would involve "a certain amount of cunning." (Russian media, January 19) Wage increases have been an important part of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev’s military reform plan, even if he has been forced to lower his sights. Last July — when he first announced his program — Sergeev called for military pay to double by 2001 and to increase 150 percent by 2006. Just over a month later, he spoke in terms of a 50 percent increase by 2001 and additional growth of 10 percent by 2006. (Itar-Tass, August 30, 1997)

Both Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin promised on several occasions last year that military salaries would be paid in full by the end of the year. The government and the military leadership are now offering different accounts as to why these promises were not fulfilled. The military says that, out of necessity, it diverted some money earmarked for wages to pay for such severely underfunded activities as the semi-annual draft.

Moreover, while conscripts are given three meals a day, officers and senior enlisted personnel receive a monetary allowance in lieu of food. But some of these allowance funds have apparently gone to feeding the soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Bonuses and allowances make up as much as 30-50 percent of an officer’s total remuneration, and the government is said to be some four billion new rubles in arrears for these benefits. It would be little consolation for Russian servicemen if Yeltsin’s "cunning" move to raise nominal wages turns out to involve a further increase in government arrears in the payment of allowances.

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