The Duma defense committee’s activities attract the media’s attention. The committee discussed the Defense Ministry’s initiatives in the military educational sector (the ministry seeks to abolish military sub-faculties at civil high schools) with General of the Army Nikolai Pankov, Chief of the Personnel and Morale Department of the Defense Ministry, on June 30. Victor Zavarzin, head of the defense committee, supported the Defense Ministry’s proposal to cut the number of military sub-faculties to 30-35. Zavarzin and Pankov are sure that the government will support their plan. The government keeps silence yet.

In the meantime, Zavarzin continues defending the Defense Ministry’s interests in society and the Cabinet. Observers took interest in his initiatives linked with social protection of military pensioners and called up reservists.

Tatyana Romanenkova, press secretary of the head of the Duma defense committee, told WPS that Victor Zavarzin recently sent an interpellation to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov regarding the lawfulness of executive bodies’ activities during the implementation of article 43 of the law on military pensions (No. 4468-1 dated February 12, 1993). His interpellation concerns the cost of food allowances the equivalent of which servicemen receive with their money allowances. Zavarzin is not satisfied with the Cabinet’s reply to Duma Speaker Gryzlov, who demanded that government increase military pensions in connection with the increase of the actual cost of the food allowance. Prime Minister Fradkov rejected the lawmaker’s initiative. This is why Zavarzin complained to the prosecutor’s office. He asked prosecutors to prevent violations linked with calculation of the cost of the food allowance. It is hard to say how the General Prosecutor’s Office will react to this document. It is not ruled out that Ustinov will support lawmakers because around 3,000 military prosecutors also receive food allowances. Anyway, Zavarzin is gaining political scores, which would be useful during the 2007 parliamentary campaign.

The Duma recently passed Zavarzin’s bill aimed at increasing social protection of called up reservists in three readings. In particular, reservists will receive their actual wages (before they received 1,000 roubles at most). In addition, reservists called up in northern regions must receive extra pay. It should be noted that this document will “cost” the budget over 1 billion roubles. The government refused to support this bill two years ago but this time Zavarzin managed to convince Fradkov.

The committee intends to consider the bill, which determines the status and tasks of guardhouses in the Army and the Navy. The Defense Ministry and ombudsman Vladimir Lukin support this document.

In other words, the Duma defense committee expands its initiatives and prepares new bills regarding military issues. The government’s position is very conservative. In the meantime, military lawmakers show their flexibility and ability to react to socio-political problems.