Claiming that the Kremlin has transferred over 100 billion rubles to Russia’s Northern Fleet, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets yesterday assured naval officers in Murmansk that the government was prepared to take several additional steps to ease the fleet’s financial problems. According to Soskovets, the government will include in the 1997 draft federal budget a separate entry for naval expenses. It will also issue an order subordinating shipyards in the Murmansk region to the federal government rather than to the navy. Fleet representatives had complained that financing shortfalls have led to shortages of spare parts and fuel for its warships. They were also unhappy that expenses for the transport and storage of nuclear waste have come out of the fleet’s budget. (Interfax & Itar-Tass, May 6)
Despite its many problems, the Northern Fleet remains Russia’s most powerful naval force and a key component of its strategic nuclear forces. The government’s intention to provide a separate budget entry for naval allocations suggests an effort to protect the navy from the other services in defense ministry budget battles. The Murmansk region as a whole has suffered as a result of naval funding cuts, and Soskovets appearance there, and his promises of aid, are also undoubtedly related to the ongoing presidential campaign.
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