Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 154

The Finance Ministry has provided Russia’s Defense Ministry with the full 5.9 trillion rubles needed to cover the back pay owed to the members of the armed forces, but it remains to be seen how soon and how much will trickle down to the individual officers and enlisted personnel. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais — who is also the finance minister — announced yesterday that the money had been turned over to the Defense Ministry three days earlier, thus fulfilling President Boris Yeltsin’s July order to pay the military its back wages by September 1. (Russian agencies, August 20)

The money must now be distributed through the chain of command, where there are innumerable opportunities for it to get sidetracked. Last week a senior Finance Ministry official, Aleksandr Smirnov, complained that the wage debt was a moving target, that the military had raised the amount from 4.5 trillion rubles to 5.9 trillion and then to more than 8 trillion. He charged that local commanders were often using this money "as they see fit" rather than turning it over to their troops. (Russian agencies, August 14)

The top military leadership realizes that this is a serious problem. Last month Defense Minister Igor Sergeev warned his commanders that such diversions would be treated as sabotage. The ministry even placed a special telephone hot-line in operation to be used by troops who had not received their pay. (Itar-Tass, July 28) Yet the temptation to use the wage funds to buy fuel, to repair crumbling facilities, or to meet the hundred-and-one other financial crises facing military commanders is a powerful one. Some might try to skirt Sergeev’s orders by placing the wage funds in a bank for a few months, counting on the interest thus earned to meet other needs.

Moscow, Lukashenka Avoid Row Over Jailing of Russian Journalists.