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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Army Officers Moonlight Over Wages

Russian military officers who have been unpaid for months are turning their hands to all sorts of odd jobs to survive, leading double lives which are sapping the efficiency of the old Red Army.


"The army was always the glory of the state, but now we are reduced to working at night to earn the wherewithal to stay alive," said Sergei, an officer at an air base in suburban Moscow.


"Clearly, we are no longer very efficient at the base during the daytime." He added, "This policy is in the process of wrecking the whole military system."


He is among the hundreds of soldiers here who have joined the swelling ranks of other disgruntled public sector workers in street demonstrations to press for pay arrears to be made good.


Alexander Kisilev, an officer in his 50s, said that to make ends meet he has a job as a night watchman at a warehouse. "Then I have to go to the office in the morning and spend all day there, without having slept," he said. "I hope I don't have to keep it up for much longer, it is very hard going."


Many officers do night shifts unloading freight trains at railway stations, said Nina Sugrobova, 50, an employee with the Moscow military region administration. They join in batches of five and earn 100,000 rubles -- about $20 -- a night. "Our average monthly pay in the administration is 400,000 rubles," she noted.


Some officers manage to get out of reporting for duty during the day, freeing them to work elsewhere. Younger officers are seriously considering quitting the army, though when they joined just a few years ago, a military career was one of the country's most prestigious.


Yelena Shtrick has an important position running a recruitment office in the capital for Russian special forces, but she has decided to do without the prestige and get better-paid work where the salary will be paid on time. She is taking an accountancy course and is already doing a bit of work on the side "whenever I can beg a few hours off at the military office."


According to official figures, the government owes the armed forces 7 trillion rubles -- about $1.3 billion -- most of it unpaid since July.