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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Deputies Join Ranks of Unpaid

The Finance Ministry has halted payment of over 8 billion rubles ($1.7 million) in overdue salaries to defeated Duma deputies, as well as to current deputies and their staff.

The action has been taken in anticipation of a presidential decree due to be signed shortly which will order that top civil servants are the last to be paid among government employees, Yury Brusnitsin, deputy affairs manager of the State Duma, said Monday.

"The money has not been allocated to us by the Finance Ministry by order of the president," he said. "We'd pay our people, but we don't have any money."

Duma staffers and deputies who lost in the December elections were last paid on Dec. 25, Brusnitsin said, adding that new deputies will also not receive their salaries until the old deputies receive what is owed them.

The halting of payments came as a result of a new policy announced last Friday by Alexander Livshits, President Boris Yeltsin's senior economic adviser.

Livshits said the government would be unveiling a plan within two weeks which would stipulate that top civil servants-- including ministers, members of the presidential staff, and employees of the State Duma -- would receive their salaries last among civil servants.

The move, Livshits said, was intended to stem resentment against government leaders and to motivate them to resolve the country's non-payment crisis. "We need to live for a while in such circumstances ... I think it will be useful in any event because there are a good deal of portly, large-size people around."

Spokesmen for the Finance Ministry maintained Monday that Duma salaries had only been halted due to a "temporary" cash flow problem, but Duma deputies and their staff insisted that the nonpayment was a policy decision.

"We haven't been paid, that's true," said Vladimir Ruzhkov, an Our Home Is Russia deputy. "Obviously, we all have to support the president, if this is his policy. But it's very difficult on some people."

Viktor Filatov, a deputy and party spokesman for the Liberal Democratic Party, was more outspoken on the policy. "We have staffers and deputies whose wives are kicking them out of the house because they're not bringing any money home," he said. "The policy is absurd. It's supposed to benefit ordinary people, but we're ordinary people, too. We work for a living. This is a purely political move he's making, just to endear himself to voters before the elections."

Brusnitsin said the Finance Ministry had initially promised to allocate money Thursday and when that date passed, the money was promised by Monday. "Now that date has passed, and we don't know when it will come," he said.

Last week, the Kremlin announced that its own employees had not been paid since before the New Year.