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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Defense Workers to Protest Wage Arrears

The civilian employees of the Russian Armed Forces will call strikes at defense-related industries Thursday and stage a protest rally in central Moscow to recover back wages exceeding 7 trillion rubles ($1.3 billion).

Spartak Arzhavkin, chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Workers and Personnel in the Russian Armed Forces, said Wednesday his union, which represents over 850,000 people, had three main demands: full payment of back wages to civilians and soldiers, outstanding child assistance and increased funding in the 1997 budget to prevent further arrears.

Finance Minister Alexander Livshits, speaking Wednesday at the first session of a conciliatory commission tasked with producing a compromise budget for 1997, vowed that the federal government would remove wage arrears in all sectors of the economy by year's end.

Arzhavkin, however, was unimpressed, even though Livshits touted plans for a separate clause in next year's budget for funding military reform and said the government intended to increase spending on defense conversion and, possibly, to step up orders to Russian defense industries.

"We will plan strikes at some facilities, such as shipyards, where the law allows, and we will protest on Pushkin Square in Moscow," Arzhavkin said, adding that his federation would take "an active role" in a planned nationwide protest on Nov. 5 organized by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions.

The armed forces have pushed for a larger share of federal largess, and the debate over next year's budget has been no exception. Defense Minister Igor Rodionov told combat veterans last Friday that funding for defense in 1997 would cover only one-third of anticipated costs.

Arzhavkin told the military paper Krasnaya Zvezda that he had found "a willing ear" in the current Defense Ministry leadership.

According to Arzhavkin, the consequences of such underfunding are "the nearly complete degradation of the Defense Ministry's industrial and construction complexes, and the slow death of its scientific, research-and-development and assembly facilities."