Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 178

In a move aimed at easing mounting disgruntlement among Russian servicemen, the government announced yesterday that it had paid out millions of rubles in order to clear up wage and payment arrears to the armed forces. News sources said that Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had reported to President Boris Yeltsin that more than US$200 million would find its way to Russian soldiers within days. The action by the government comes less than two weeks before thousands of state employees across Russia are expected to take to the streets to protest the government’s payment arrears. Concerned over reports that Russian soldiers could take part in the protest, Primakov’s government had made it a priority to get back pay out to troops serving in Russia’s regular army and its other security services (AP, UPI, Itar-Tass, September 28).

Although yesterday’s move by the government appears to be yet another stop-gap measure, it does apparently fulfill a pledge made on September 19 to Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. The Russian defense chief said that he had been promised during a Kremlin meeting with President Boris Yeltsin that the government would provide over 4 billion rubles to the armed forces by October 1. The money, Sergeev said, would cover wages and payments to the military for June and July. On the same day Sergeev also voiced his “full trust” in Primakov. The former foreign minister, he said, “understands the problems of the army well and has always supported the armed forces” (Russian agencies, September 19).

The Russian Defense Ministry may not be so happy, however, with another announcement made recently by the government: namely, that Mikhail Zadornov will remain in the post of finance minister. According to one Russian daily, military leaders moved with unprecedented brazenness in recent weeks to express their opposition to Zadornov’s reappointment. On September 14, the newspaper said, a “high-ranking officer of the Defense Ministry” was quoted as saying that Zadornov was “in fact a barrier between the supreme commander in chief [President Yeltsin] and the armed forces.” The officer reportedly also both accused Zadornov of fomenting tension in the army and navy (Russky Telegraf, September 16; Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 22). Military leaders charged that the liberal Zadornov was responsible for holding up funding already allocated to the armed forces for the payment of wages and other expenses.