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Meeting with Russian military officers and their spouses

February 21, 2011, Gorki, Moscow Region

Dmitry Medvedev discussed with officers and their spouses reforms of the Armed Forces and social conditions for the servicemen’s families.

The President emphasised that the programme to modernise the Armed Forces, particularly to equip the Armed Forces with modern weaponry, will certainly be continued.

Mr Medvedev noted that beginning next year, the order under which servicemen are now paid bonuses will become the law for the payment of their regular service pay. The new system of monetary incentives will make the military a higher income social group again.

Furthermore, the President instructed Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to draft targeted employment programmes for the spouses of military officers stationed at various remote garrisons around the country.

Dmitry Medvedev congratulated the servicemen on the upcoming Defender of the Fatherland Day and noted that a modern army should be staffed only by those who consider it their calling.

* * *

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Comrades, friends,

First of all, I would like to welcome you all here and congratulate you on the upcoming Defender of the Fatherland Day.

I have just arrived from the Kremlin, where I presented state decorations, including to some of your fellow officers. Certainly, this is always a very pleasant ceremony, particularly on the eve of a state holiday.

I suggested that we meet today in this format where in addition to the officers I can meet their spouses as well, since service in the Armed Forces involves more than just military training and ensuring defence capabilities; it also involves the need to feel at ease at home, to be comfortable and know that everything is fine.

Thus, I think we may continue our communication in the following way: I will say a few more words, and then I will ask you to speak up – I mean the heads of the households, the officers sitting here today. We can discuss the current situation in the Armed Forces, the progress in Armed Forces reforms, all the advantages of the suggestions currently being implemented, as well as, perhaps, their disadvantages. In other words, let’s look toward the future and talk about the changes taking place and what is to be done in order for our Armed Forces to be highly effective, modern, and able to meet today’s needs in all areas, ranging from personnel to weaponry.

Our meeting is not held behind closed doors, we are being recorded by the media, so you should not tell absolutely everything, but please tell us a little about what else should be done.

We will surely talk about servicemen’s social status. You know, literally two weeks ago, I chaired a meeting and definitively determined positions on how issues of monetary compensation for the military will be settled. The deadline for the new mechanisms launch will be January 1, 2012. I refer to the order under which currently bonuses are paid to the best servicemen and which will soon regulate the overall service pay for the military, which I think is extremely important.

There are some questions concerning housing, as well as all other aspects of day-to-day life. Here, I very much count on hearing not just from officers, but from their spouses too, since you are the ones who maintain the household, help your husbands and raise the children. And often, this happens in distant parts of our country, in rather difficult conditions, in the absence of normal housing or children’s preschool facilities and – this is most unpleasant for anyone – without a normal job.

This, too, is a topic I would like to cover – first and foremost, with the ladies present here – because I have spent the last month addressing specifically the issues of employment. There are specific forms of unemployment, or lack of employment. In particular, this kind of unemployment can be typical for the spouses of military officers, who may have excellent education received in central Russia or elsewhere but are unable to get a job. No doubt, this is irritating psychologically and painful financially as it evidently affects the family income.

Thus, I suggest that we engage in a fairly broad discussion, and if any other questions arise, I’ll be happy to answer them. That is all I wanted to say for the start. But before we begin, I suggest that we raise our glasses to our nation and to all of the defenders of our fatherland.

I sincerely congratulate all of you on your professional holiday.


* * *

When I was presenting state decorations today, I said that the Defender of the Fatherland Day is a special holiday for most Russians; almost every family celebrated it even at the time when it was a workday. This is primarily because many people have family and friends serving in the Armed Forces, and because our country experienced a great deal of suffering in the 20th century, more than other countries had seen for many centuries: the vast majority of our citizens served in the Armed Forces and saw the misery of wars. That is why this is a special holiday.

Today it is not just a professional holiday for military personnel but a celebration for all those who defend our country, those for whom defending our homeland is a vocation, to quote a well-known film.

I would like to congratulate all of you who have chosen this vocation on Defender of the Fatherland Day.

This toast is to all those who defend our homeland and to their spouses. Congratulations, and the best of health to you all.

February 21, 2011, Gorki, Moscow Region