MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – Russia's Defense Ministry said Thursday it was “surprised” by media reports claiming it was planning to take control of the Emergencies Ministry.
Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta said Thursday that the Emergencies Ministry was likely to be subsumed into the larger Defense Ministry in a move being pushed by Sergei Shoigu, who was appointed to head the Defense Ministry last year after 21 years in charge of the Emergencies Ministry.
Speculation about the potential merger of the two ministries “prompted surprise” within the Defense Ministry, a spokesperson said Thursday.
Although one of Russia’s smaller ministries, the Emergencies Ministry receives about 10 percent of the funding allocated to the Defense Ministry, and employs about 350,000 people, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
In the Soviet Union there was no separation between the two ministries, and rescue work during flooding, fires and other natural disasters was coordinated and carried out by the Defense Ministry. In 1991, Shoigu was appointed head of the agency that eventually became the Emergencies Ministry.
The two ministries are currently cooperating closely in Russia’s Far East in a bid to mitigate the effects of severe flooding, and Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that a final decision about the proposed merger would be made when the situation there is under control.
The Defense Ministry “could not stand aside during the crisis situation [in the Far East],” the ministry spokesman added Thursday. “[And it is] actively using all available resources to help the local population.”