The Ekaterinburg fire: the plot thickens?

I just came across an interesting post at the Barents Observer, which makes the argument that the Ekaterinburg fire started in the torpedo compartment, rather than on the submarine’s exterior. This is based on visual analysis of photos posted by a local blogger in the Murmansk area. I don’t have permission to cross-post the photos, so I urge those who might have expertise in this area to go look at the photos and accompanying discussion.

The argument, in brief, is that the rubber outer covering of the submarine, which is what supposedly burned, does not appear in post-fire photos to have sustained much damage. Instead, the fire may have started near the hydro-acoustic apparatus that is located inside the outer hull. Again, I have no idea whether this argument makes any sense or not, as I’m neither an expert on firefighting nor on submarine construction. But it’s worth at least noting the rumors circulating in the Russian internet, which also include the possibility that torpedoes had not been offloaded. Here’s a good summary of the alternative version of what happened during the fire.

Finally, one other question: If there was a 4×4 meter hole in the submarine, as seems fairly clear from the first of the Barents Observer photos, then what happened to the submarine’s interior when the sub was submerged in order to put out the fire? At the very least, it would seem to me that the torpedo compartment must have sustained extensive salt water damage, no?

Anyway, I’m not one to hold to conspiracy theories, so I will assume that the official version of events is the one most likely to be true, unless there’s good evidence to the contrary. But it’s worth knowing that other explanations are floating around.


New pay structure for conscripts announced

In late December, the Russian government approved some more rules and regulations dealing with military pay. These included a decree on stipends for conscripts and a separate decree on bonuses and other forms of additional pay for officers and contract soldiers. In this post, I’ll cover pay for conscripts.

Position Monthly pay (rubles)
Petty officer (starshina) 1800
Assistant duty officer at command post, translator 1700
Deputy platoon commander, head of medical clinic 1600
Head of firing range, checkpoint or fuel depot 1500
Squad commander, head of coding post, sanitation or cooking instructor 1400
Artillery weapon firing commander, driver-mechanic of self-propelled strategic missiles 1300
Driver-mechanic, senior driver, senior communications operator, recon, nurse, senior rescue personnel, student at professional military school 1200
Driver, communications operator, rescue personnel, grenade-thrower, sniper, machine-gunner 1100
Rifleman, camoufleur, road builder, electrician, student at technical school or at military school (incl cadets at Nakhimov and Suvorov schools) 1000

In addition to this basic income, conscripts receive various bonuses, including for:

  1. Higher qualifications: 5 percent for 3rd class, 10 percent for 2nd class, and 20 percent for 1st class specialists.
  2. Serving in unusual or difficult conditions:

a) Up to 100 percent of the stipend for serving on submarines or as aircraft crew

b) Up to 70 percent of the stipend for serving on a surface ship, in a position that requires parachuting or diving, in the Presidential regiment, or in special units

c) Up to 50 percent of the stipend for medical specialists, staff of the space forces, or soldiers serving on combat duty

d) Up to 20 percent of the stipend for ground-based aviation specialists working in positions that ensure flight safety; soldiers working in refueling naval nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel, or radioactive waste; soldiers working as tank crews; or for rescue unit personnel

e) Up to 10 percent of the stipend for soldiers serving in border guard posts.

3.  Carrying out dangerous duties in peacetime:

a) Up to 100 percent of the stipend for diving or parachute jumps

b) Up to 50 percent of the stipend for mine-clearance or fire-fighting (for each day spent performing those duties)

4.  Working with classified materials: 10 percent for secret classification, 20 percent for top secret, 25 percent for materials “of special importance”

5.  Additional 1000 rubles per months for orphans or others who are eligible to receive additional support according to the federal law on orphans and children lacking parental support.

A couple of quick points about all this. First of all, the base pay for conscripts is being more or less doubled compared to 2011 rates. Also, the bonuses for higher qualifications and working with secret documents are new. Previously, they were only available for officers and contract soldiers. The publications I have seen do not make it absolutely clear whether the other bonuses are new or not, though Rossiiskaia Gazeta seems to imply that they are.

At the same time, the Rossiiskaia Gazeta article’s statement that conscripts who are responsible and don’t get into trouble will now be getting a sizable amount of money seems to be overstating things a bit. The absolute maximum a conscript soldier who is not an orphan can make under these rules is 6210 rubles/month, assuming I didn’t mess up the math. That comes out to a bit over $200/month. I suppose that’s not completely horrible given that these are mostly 18 or 19 year-olds whose housing and food are being provided by the government. But to call it a sizable amount of money is going a bit far for my taste. Especially when the vast majority of conscripts will be getting stipend in the $30-50/month range. It goes to show just how embarrassingly low conscript pay was in the Russian army — given that these rates are DOUBLE the previous ones.