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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Promotes Duma Deputies

The Defense Ministry has promoted 150 reserve officers who sit in the State Duma in what some are seeing as a poorly camouflaged attempt to win ratification of the long-stalled START II treaty.

The ministry sent 150 pairs of new epaulets to the Duma defense committee to be distributed among the deputies, a member of the committee's staff said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Among those who got new stars Wednesday were leaders or leading members of most major factions, including Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, Unity leader Boris Gryzlov, Russia's Regions chief Oleg Morozov and Fatherland-All Russia member Andrei Kokoshin.

Zyuganov and Kokoshin were promoted to colonel, Gryzlov became a major and Morozov a lieutenant colonel, according to the staff member, who helped to distribute the epaulets.

The Liberal Democrats also now have more senior officers to serve under Colonel Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who was made a colonel a few years ago and has posed in a military uniform with three stars on posters with the inscription "Real Colonel."

Zhirinovsky's die-hard sidekick Alexei Mitrofanov got the epaulets of a major, while Ashot Yegiazaryan, who has been linked by the media to corruption scandals, is now a lieutenant, according to Izvestia, which broke the story Thursday.

The defense committee staff member, who spoke on condition he not be identified, could not confirm whether Mitrofanov and Yegiazaryan were promoted.

He noted that Zhirinovsky has been actively lobbying the top brass for a promotion to general, but under the law, a reserve officer cannot be made a general unless he enters active service.

Theoretically, any Duma deputy can be promoted to colonel if he stays "long enough" in the lower chamber, said the staff member. The status of Duma deputies is equal under the law to that of a federal minister, whose position allows him to become a colonel.

Only those deputies who became reserve officers - either by undergoing military training in a college or serving in the armed forces - are entitled to promotions, he said.

This has left Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, who has angered the military by his criticism of the Chechen campaign, without any star-studded epaulets because he is not a reserve officer, according to Sergei Loktionov, spokesman for the democratic party's Duma faction.

The Defense Ministry also chose not to promote former Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Shokhin, a deputy from the Fatherland-All Russia faction, even though he already is a captain in the reserves, according to Izvestia.

The defense committee staff member insisted that all of the newly promoted Duma deputies will now be required to undergo brief military training to make their military skills "adequate to their ranks."

He flatly denied that the wave of promotions - given to one third of the chamber's deputies - was intended to sway the deputies to approve several important bills on the Duma's agenda.

"It is very primitive to think that these promotions will encourage them to vote differently," he said. "These ranks do not entitle them to any pay hikes. On the contrary, new ranks mean more responsibilities as they may be required to command entire units if a war breaks out."

Major Mitrofanov, who served as a diplomat before retiring in 1991 to pursue a political career, would be required to command a battalion, while Colonel Zyuganov, who worked as a school teacher before pursuing a Communist Party career, would be entitled to an entire regiment. Paradoxically enough, Kokoshin would also have to put up with only a regiment even though he spent years serving as deputy defense minister.

According to one Duma insider, however, none of the Duma's reserve officers is likely to be called up even in case of war, and the promotions were only to encourage them to pass bills that have been submitted by the federal government.

Alexander Pikayev of the Moscow Carnegie Center also said the promotions could encourage deputies to go along with the government and endorse three treaties this spring: START II, the Open Skies Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Members of the Duma defense committee will convene Monday to consider whether to recommend these key treaties for ratification by the lower chamber. Previous Dumas have staunchly refused to ratify either START II or CTBT, which were first submitted in 1995 and 1994, respectively.

Pikayev criticized the Defense Ministry for expanding its army of reservists, saying a more sensible policy would be to trim the ranks and channel the money into training the most qualified officers.

"In our country, almost every adult male is a reservist, which is absurd" for an army that cannot afford to properly train even its active servicemen, Pikayev said.

The insider, who works for one of the Duma factions, said the system of promoting reserve officers even though they are unlikely to ever serve reminds him of tsarist times when children of noblemen would get officer ranks immediately upon birth and some of them would become colonels in their teenage years without entering active service.