Monday, September 27, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Kamchatka Draftees Can’t Show Up for Military Service Because of Costly Air Fares

Paul Goble

Staunton, September 27 – For four years, a Kamchatka journalist says, draftees from Koryak district have not been able to show up for military service because there has been no money from the government to pay for the air fares needed to bring them to central dispatch places, one measure of the difficulties involved in connecting parts of Russia not linked by roads.
But as Vyacheslav Skalatsky shows, the combination of cutbacks in air service to distant locations within the Russian Federation and rapidly increasing prices for air fares has broader consequences, both preventing young men from getting better jobs that military experience can open for them and meaning that people who are ill cannot get medical attention.
When he first reported this, the Kamchatka journalist says, he and his colleagues “understood that the bureaucrats might have not been able to deal with this problem just as with others. But we were not prepared to plumb the depths of their unprofessionalism. Now that has happened (,
Skalatsky notes that “the task of bringing draftees to the kray center is only part of a large social problem of the entire Koryak district. Young people [from there] cannot be called to military service as is guaranteed by the Constitution. And then they cannot find more or less attractive work because of the lack of such service.”
But instead of addressing this problem, regional officials have sought to shift responsibility for and place blame on anyone but themselves. And when Koryak residents have complained, the bureaucrats have often routed their letters to the wrong officials who in turn have either ignored them or answered with “empty” promises.
One appeal, he said, complained that the situation had deteriorated since the Koryak district was amalgamated into the Kamchatka kray as part of then-President Vladimir Putin’s push to reduce the number of federal subjects by combining in the first instance, small, so-called “matryoshka” non-Russian districts with larger and predominantly Russian ones.
And another letter that Skalatsky read out on television pointed out to officials that many young men can’t find jobs because of this situation. Those “without a military ticket,” she pointed out, “are not hired on a permanent basis,” something that leaves them with few prospects and little hope for the future.
One official told her that the military commissar of Kamchatka kray says that the kray government cannot pay for the flights because Moscow has not provided the necessary funds “to the full extent.” He promised to see what could be done, but since that time, the people and draftees of Koryakia have not received any help.
What they and others have received are proud and entirely “empty” boasts by kray officials. Oskana Gerasimova, the kray development minister, told a session of the Russian-American Pacific Ocean Partnership Group that Kamchatka has all that it needs to be a leader in the development of trade ties between Russia and Pacific Rim and European countries.
Skalatsky says that it would be “interesting” to learn how Gerasimova squares this claim with the situation of “those draftees who FOR YEARS have not been able to reach the draft assembly point because of the absence of money and air communications” and feels comfortable in asserting that Kamchatka is able to respond “adequately to ‘the challenges of the times.’”
Some might be tempted to view this situation as exceptional, but another report today, this time in “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” suggests that similar problems are intensifying in the roughly one-third of the Russian Federation that lies in the north and whose residents are not linked to the rest of the country by any roads, let alone good ones.
According to the Moscow paper’s Krasnoyarsk correspondent, Aleksandr Chernyavsky, 11 days ago, officials closed the civilian airport in Dixon, the northernmost such facility in the Russian Federation, ending regular air service between that location and the south and stranding some 60 passengers waiting on the tarmac(
“The air bridge for residents of Dixon” – more than 600 people – “is vitally necessary, Chernyavsky continues. By plane are delivered not only the residents of the local settlement but also doctors, mail, and fresh products like milk and vegetables.” Official promises to establish “helicopter communication” do not appear likely to make up for the loss of plane service.
Vasily Nechayev, the head of the education commission of the regional legislature, says that this failure of the industry and energy ministry and the Taymyr district authorities is generating “serious concerns among the kray parliamentarians. But the local executive responds that that the closure was not his fault but that of aviation safety officials.
To bring the airport up to Russian safety standards will require 250 million rubles (8 million US dollars), an amount local legislatures promise to try to find in next year’s budget. In the meantime, residents of that northern settlement will have to make do without fresh milk and vegetables and perhaps, like the Koryaks, won’t be able to send their sons south to the army.

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