Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov met with parliamentarians on January 19. In particular, he told deputies about preparations for celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Victory in WWII. As is known, the defense minister, who is the first deputy secretary of the Victory organizational committee (the committee is headed by the Russian president), is in charge of preparing for this great holiday. What does he do?

According to Ivanov, the committee has prepared the scenario of a military parade on May 9, 2004. He noted that at present 8.1 million veterans of WWII live in Russia. Over 1 million veterans were involved in combat.

The defense minister stated, “Only a respectful attitude to veterans will let us move ahead and look into the future with confidence.”

The minister said that lump sums paid to invalid participants in the war and widows will amount to over 1.577 billion rubles in 2005. Ivanov noted that the organizational committee in charge of preparations for the celebration in Moscow has already been established. Over 50 foreign leaders will attend the celebrations.

Military parades involving veterans will be organized in practically all garrisons. Veterans of WWII will meet with soldiers and officers of today’s military units. The Army will take care of military cemeteries and memorial complexes. Educational and sports organizations sponsored by the Defense Ministry will participate. At present there are over 70 educational institutions for young cadets in Moscow. They have their own plans in preparation for the celebration of Victory Day. The Defense Ministry has 16 Suvorov schools, the Nakhimov naval school and the musical school.

There are many plans. Meanwhile, will veterans’ lives become easier?

Unfortunately, the government’s law on monetization of benefits looks like a farce against the background of these preparations. Veterans and invalids of WWII have also suffered financial losses because of monetization of benefits. Invalids receive 1,550 rubles in addition to their pensions and so-called “social package” (medicines and bus fare for free) as a compensation of cancellation of their benefits. It should be noted that ordinary pensioners, who participated in WWII, will receive only 1,050 rubles plus the social package. Ordinary pensioners will receive 200 to 300 rubles in addition to their basic pensions. It should be noted that invalids of WWII and participants in WWII will only be able to use local trains in their native regions. For instance, an invalid who comes to Moscow from Kursk will have to pay for public transport in the capital.

Before veterans or invalids of WWII had discounts on installation of telephones and dentures. In addition, once a year they received a free railway tickets to any place they want to go. At present they can only go to a health center and back (on condition that they were sent to the health center by a doctor). Monetization has also damaged former prisoners of concentration camps and widows of participants in WWII.

It is a big question if Russia will manage to send veterans to health centers every year. At the same time, the budget will save a lot of money.

Instead of preparing for their Victory, veterans have to organize meetings and demonstrations, defending their right to benefits, receive medicines and more. Will the government hear them?