Photo leaked by whistleblower Igor Matveyev. On the left are two cans of beef stew, on the right are two cans of dog food. The top can has what appears to be part of a beef stew label still stuck to it.
A whistleblower in Russia’s security force has released photos and videos of what he says are cans of dog food disguised as beef stew, which were allegedly fed to Interior Ministry troops earlier this year.
The person who sounded the alarm - a rarity in the security forces - is Igor Matveyev, a former major in Russia’s Interior Force. He says the disguised dog food was served to soldiers for several months at his base in the eastern city of Vladivostok, in order to save money. A video he posted online early May apparently shows dog food cans covered up with labels reading "premium quality beef" among the stock of food in the base’s storehouse.
Russia’s security forces have a long history of financial problems and corruption, and are currently undergoing unpopular reforms aimed at restructuring an outdated hierarchical structure.
Video reportedly shot in Vladivostok's Interior Ministry force base. The person filming can be heard saying in Russian: "It's April 19, 2011. Yesterday we found out that our canned meat is replaced with dog food". He goes on to explain that according to accounting papers, there should be 13,800 cans registered in the storehouse, including 4,485 kg of meat. In reality, he says there were 1,374 expired cans, 3,111 cans of dog food, and no edible canned meat in the storehouse at all. He then shows a can with a cooked beef label, which he peels off to reveal a dog food label.
A separate video, also uploaded by Matveyev, shows what he says are barracks at the Vladivostok base that housed 18 illegal Asian immigrant workers for more than a month. According to the former officer, the workers seemed to be either Korean or Chinese, and were used for clean-up and construction jobs on the base.
Video reportedly shot in the barracks that housed illegal Asian immigrants in the Vladivostok base.
An Interior Ministry department was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the incidents Matveyev described had occurred, but that they had long ago been dealt with and that an investigation had been started. Matveyev asserts that on the contrary, he tried to signal these incidents to higher command but was repeatedly ignored.
The former major says he was dismissed from his post after he recorded and uploaded a video message this month alleging widespread corruption in the Interior Ministry force and calling on President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to intervene. On May 30, he was officially charged with beating a junior soldier – a move seen by his supporters as an attempt to silence a troublesome voice. He faces up to ten years in jail.
This is not the first time that Matveyev has alerted the public to alleged wrongdoings within the Interior Ministry force. In 2003, he helped a Russian journalist uncover a ‘slave market’ organised by military officers in the far-eastern city of Khabarovsk. Local military commanders ‘rented out’ soldiers to use as workforce in various companies. The soldiers were not paid - all of the money went to the commanders. After denouncing the practice, Matveyev was put under criminal investigation, dismissed and branded as mentally unstable. He was reinstated in his position two years later, after the intervention of a human rights commission mandated by the European Council.
Photo leaked by Matveyev, originally posted here.
Post written with freelance journalist Ostap Karmodi.
Matveyev alleges additional infractions
In his video address to Russian authorities, Matveyev accused Vladivostok Interior Ministry force officers of illegally selling base property for private profit. He says the following photo shows a civilian car being loaded with equipment from the military base.
He also maintains that civilian taxis would regularly enter the base without supervision - against military rules.
“If the dog food was really purchased for the base’s dogs, why were there 3,000 cans of it?”
Valentina Reshetkina is the head of the Khabarovsk chapter of The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia, a group which works to expose human rights violations within the Russian military.
There's no chapter of our association in Vladivostok, so we have taken charge of defending Major Matveyev. A colleague of mine has found him a lawyer, and Moscow-based NGO Memorial and Public Verdict are paying for his legal expenses. The lawyer will also defend two other officers who supported Matveyev and spoke out against the outrageous situation in eastern Russian Interior Ministry military units.
We have known Major Matveyev for many years, since he served in Khabarovsk. We began working with him when he was investigating instances of soldier slavery in 2003. The authorities tried to silence him back then, too.
I believe that everything Matveyev reported is true. If the dog food was really bought for the base’s dogs, as was claimed at one point, why were there 3,000 cans of it? And why would they change the labels on them? There’s only one explanation: they were fed to soldiers.
The second question is who let foreign citizens inside military barracks. Civilians are never supposed to be allowed to enter military bases unguarded. A mother can barely go visit her soldier son, let alone an NGO member. But here, a whole bunch of foreign male citizens were actually living in a military unit! Something is very wrong.”