Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, May 11

Russian WWII veteran returns medals to government / Russia amends labor law at immigrant workers’ expense / Russia’s celebrated police reform delayed until December

Moskovsky Komsomolets
Russian WWII veteran returns medals to government

Vasily Zasorin, a WWII veteran living in a small town in central Russia’s Voronezh Region has mailed his wartime orders and medals to Prime Minister Putin in protest to the government’s treatment of veterans.

Vasily Zasorin (87) was happy when President Dmitry Medvedev signed an order to provide good housing to all war veterans several years ago. He thought his lifetime dream would come true at last.

But the veteran remains in his leaking shack with no central heating or toilet because officials decided there were “no grounds for improving his housing conditions.” Zasorin’s daughter Galina says that her father uses the outhouse only in summer, heats his house with a woodstove and takes baths in a kid’s portable swimming pool.

“I had to leave my family and move in with my dad because he would not have survived alone,” Galina says. She added that the official attitude toward her father can only be described as humiliating.

Galina said her father had a heart attack after the commission’s visit. The bureaucrats said the house was habitable because it had a roof and windows, and that he can stuff the holes in the roof with rags.

“Dad was wounded in both legs during the war, and a shell fragment has not been removed from his neck to this day. Is this how the homeland shows its gratitude to war veterans?” Galina asks.

“My country needed me when I was young and strong, but not now that I am old and disabled. So now, I don’t need my war decorations either,” Zasorin told his daughter.

He packed his orders and medals and mailed the parcel to Putin with a letter saying: “Respected Vladimir Vladimirovich, feeling desperate on the eve of yet another Victory Day celebration, I, Vasily Zasorin, an invalid of the Great Patriotic War, am returning my war decorations to the motherland that has become a wicked stepmother to me because of its civil servants’ actions.”
While local journalists have raced to the veteran’s dilapidated house, not a single responded to Zasorin’s complaint.

Moskovskiye Novosti
Russia amends labor law at immigrant workers’ expense

Russia’s new employment support program involves amending existing legislation to better manage labor migration while expanding the dwindling workforce.

MN has had an opportunity to study the new state program which was drafted by the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development and submitted to the government.
Along with the further liberalization of migration laws, the program calls to bring people with disabilities and retired citizens back into the workforce. This is absolutely necessary because the country’s average working age will continue to decline. Without this initiative, the only alternative for a renewed workforce is more foreign workers.

Although the number of foreign workers is expected to grow from 158,000 in 2010 to 325,000 in 2015, the government has set itself the ambitious goal of retrieving 35 percent of the jobs currently occupied by immigrants and redistributing them to Russian nationals.
There is no doubt that Russia does require some foreign workforce. “We are short of workers for physical labor jobs, not white collar positions,” said parliament member Oleg Shein. Yet, he doubts that even the new state program, which emphasizes employing foreigners within bilateral interstate agreements, will be able to curb illegal immigration.

The program also includes policies to encourage internal migration in Russia, such as offering cash guarantees to workers moving to a different region. Sergei Khramov, head of SotsProf, a trade union association, does not believe the government has enough money to do this. “Besides, money is not everything. People won’t move willingly as long as residence registration is required.”

The retraining programs planned are expected to cut unemployment from 7.5 to 6.2 percent by 2015. The new labor law will encourage new mothers on leave with young children to attend retraining courses. Even cutting unemployment by 1 percent is progress, Shein said, because a 1 percent increase correlates to a 4 percent rise in the crime rate.

The program’s authors expect the number of the unemployed opting for self-employment or starting new businesses to rise from the current 3.3 to 8 percent in 2015. They also plan to target labor productivity by introducing standards which would “eliminate jobs with poor working conditions and low productivity.”

The ministry plans to spend 500 billion rubles ($18bn) in four years on this program – about as much as the government’s annual spending on employment as part of its anti-crisis policy during 2009 and 2010. The government said it has not yet considered the ministry’s request for financing.

Russia’s celebrated police reform delayed until December

Russia’s police reforms will not be completed before December: not even top Interior Ministry officials have been re-hired.
The process of rebranding Russia’s corrupt and distrusted militsia (militia) as the more international-sounding politsia (police) is a cornerstone of the Interior Ministry’s reforms. However, it now faces unexpected obstacles and may be seriously delayed. On March 1, President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree giving the deadline of June 1. It was hoped this would mean that incompetent or dishonest officers would be dismissed and that it would significantly strengthen the ministry’s human resources potential.

Human rights activists volunteered to join re-certification boards, saying the public should play a role. Specialists advocated a more scientific approach, suggesting mandatory lie detector tests to rule out corruption. No one thought it would become mired in lobbyist battles, which now mean the president’s deadline will not be met.

One law enforcement agency chief outlined a three-stage process. First a board headed by Sergei Naryshkin, Chief of the Presidential Executive Office, was to certify sub-division heads in the ministry’s central administration, as well as federal district and regional department chiefs. Then certified central administration chiefs will form a central board to approve members of regional boards which would then certify the rest. Naryshkin’s board has approved most regional chiefs but barely any central administration division heads. The certification of rank-and-file officers is still a long way off.

An official close to the Presidential Executive Office ascribes the delay to overly optimistic initial deadlines, which supposed all senior central administration officers and regional chiefs could be screened in two months and regional certification programs launched.

The stumbling block came with the re-appointment of top officials in the central administration as they battled to save their jobs. An official close to the administration mentioned rumors that people are offering between $1 million and $10 million for approval. The ministry’s HR department chief, the police chief and the economic security department chief have still not been appointed.
One central administration operational officer said he did not know anyone who had been re-certified, adding he had no idea when it would happen, and that he was told the new staff lists would be circulated after the New Year.

With no key appointments made, determining the central administration’s structure, number of division chiefs, their ranks and drafting regional certification regulations is all impossible. One official mentioned that many unpleasant chiefs had already been dismissed.
Two law enforcement officers told Vedomosti the deadline has to be extended to December 1.
Lawyer and board member Anatoly Kucherena agreed, explaining the delay by meticulous checks, but saying it was an announcement for the president to make.

Moscow police trade union head Mikhail Pashkin said delays will only make officers more nervous and impair their performance. He believes incompetent Interior Ministry bosses were to blame for setting unrealistic deadlines.
An Interior Ministry spokesperson declined to comment.

Presidential Press Secretary Natalia Timakova said the president prioritizes the retention of professional police officers over deadlines.

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

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