Arkhangelsk authorities take people’s benefits to support the Ukraine war

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The authorities of the Arkhangelsk region have spent more than 600 million rubles (€6 million) on payments to participants of the invasion of Ukraine by taking money from other expenditure items of the region’s budget, the analysis of documents published on the portal of legal acts shows.

We are talking about the redistribution of budget funds previously allocated for other purposes. Since last April, regional authorities have reduced spending on benefits for the so-called veterans of labor (an honorary status given to some people for many years of hard work in a particular field) seven times. Instead, these funds were used on one-off payments to mobilized soldiers, contract soldiers and volunteers recruited for the war in Ukraine, as well as to security forces participating in the invasion. Part of the funds was spent on payments to conscripts and military families. The total amount of such allocations for the year amounted to 265 million rubles.

In the same fashion, 68 million rubles were taken from the Social Insurance Fund. These were to have been spent on monthly benefits for those who have children aged 8 to 17 years. 60 million rubles on payments to the military were taken from funds earmarked for subsidies for utilities and housing.

Another 38 million were cut from from healthcare. The military were “sponsored” at the expense of doctors, who are entitled to payments for work in remote and hard-to-reach areas and for working with children, as well as at the expense of medical students sponsored by healthcare institutions.

Another 10 million were taken from the line item “Payments to foster families for children in their care.” These funds were instead used to pay those who signed a contract to participate in the war.

The authorities of the Arkhangelsk region have also been cutting funding for such items as educational activities, hot meals for schoolchildren, assistance to orphans in paying for housing, social payments to victims of political repression, and compensation for the cost of health resort treatment. The money saved this way was also used to pay the military. They also took a little from the officials themselves (30 million from funding for subordinate institutions).

Another substantial source for payments to the military was the regional Reserve Fund which expended 124.4 million rubles on these purposes. At the same time, the Reserve Fund itself is partially formed by reducing social spending. For example in November 2023, it got more than 30 million rubles from the funds which were originally earmarked for the development of education sector. 

The Barents Observer has calculated that more than 620 million rubles were redistributed for payments to the military last year.

 

Photo from the page of Arkhangelsk regional governor Alexander Tsybulsky

 

These are appropriations that were taken from other expenditure items after the budget was adopted. However, there are also expenses which are taken into account when the budget is drafted. For example, the 2023 budget had almost 300 million rubles allocated for payments to contract soldiers, volunteers, the mobilized and security forces participating in the war. In 2024, 360 million rubles have been earmarked for the same purpose.

Summing up the redistributed funds and direct allocations in the 2023 and 2024 budgets brings the total for payments to participants of the war and their families to 1.28 billion rubles.

For comparison: the 2024 regional budget has 1.1 billion rubles allocated for child birth and child raising benefits. The budget for the comprehensive development of rural areas is less than 900 million rubles and it includes the construction and renovation of sports facilities, a community center, a boarding school, a primary school and kindergarten, infrastructure projects, and so on. Planned spending on high-tech medical care is less that 0.5 billion.

Finally, benefits for veterans of labour are less than 1.8 billion and this is the line item which suffers the most from the redistribution of payments to the military.

It should be pointed out that the Arkhangelsk region is subsidized. Its 2024 budget deficit is almost 15 billion rubles – more than 10 percent of expenditure. Last year, the region had the lowest quality of roads of all Russian regions with only 13% of roads in standard condition. The situation is similar with the resettlement from dilapidated housing: at the end of last year, the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, called the region one of the worst on the issue. According to Bastrykin, more than 65,000 people in the region live in dilapidated housing. In 2021, the Chamber of Accounts published data showing that the region is among the worst in terms of water quality – more than 95 percent of its centralized water supply sources did not meet health standards.

Earlier the Barents Observer reported that the Arkhangelsk authorities had set up a special entity to finance various projects in occupied Melitopol. The region has earmarked 342 million rubles for this entity in 2024 and more than 300 million in the 2025. According to Novaya Gazeta, the neighboring Komi Republic also spends similar amounts in Russia-occupied areas.