Translate page with Google

Story Publication logo April 18, 2022

How Much Does Russia Assess Readiness To Risk Life for the Motherland



The IStories team continues to report about power and corruption in Russia and the invasion of...


To view graphics in this report, click here.

One day, on March 23, the State Duma passed a law that allows participants in the war in Ukraine to receive the status of a veteran. This law should provide them with “a decent life, active work, honor and respect in society for the honest performance of their military duty, courage, courage and heroism,” the explanatory note says. But today's veterans do not even have enough money for a new refrigerator or a hearing aid, and the promised housing has to wait decades. 

In 2020, entrepreneur Yaroslav Selyutin launched the Veteran's Dream project, which raises money to fulfill the wishes of veterans of the Great Patriotic War. With his help, 94-year-old Vera Kashkina from Yakutia was able to install a shower and toilet in the house, 91-year-old Anna Kutyrkina from the Samara region made a new cesspool on the site, and 99-year-old Tatyana Zanozina from the Nizhny Novgorod region bought a washing machine. 

Russia continues to unleash wars and participate in conflicts - every year there are more and more veterans. But the state does not remember their dreams and desires. “Important Stories” reports how people live in Russia who were sent to war by their homeland.

There are more wars

In 2021, 1.5 million combat veterans lived in Russia. Since 2012, their number has grown by 20%: 270,000 people have received this status, which is almost the same as the population of Kostroma.

“In addition to the big declared [wars], which everyone knows about, there are also smaller conflicts: they continue to this day, but they try not to advertise participation in them. Their participants are also given the status of combat veterans,” says a social policy specialist (we do not name him because Important Stories is recognized as an “undesirable organization” in Russia) .

Who is considered a war veteran

The federal law "On Veterans" contains a list of wars in which Russians took part. It includes more than 30 conflicts of the last century: from the civil war of 1917-1922 and the battles at Khalkhin Gol to the fighting in Chechnya. Over the past 35 years, the list includes:

  • the war in Angola;
  • the war in Mozambique;
  • war in Ethiopia;
  • the war in Afghanistan;
  • war in Tajikistan;
  • the first and second wars in Chechnya;
  • war with Georgia on the side of South Ossetia and Abkhazia;
  • war in Syria;
  • war in Ukraine.

Only three conflicts do not have an end date: “counter-terrorist operations on the territory of the North Caucasus region” (going on since August 1999), the war in Syria (officially began on September 30, 2015) and the war in Ukraine (officially began on February 24, 2022) .

If a person was in a war that is not specified in the law, he will not be able to become a veteran and receive all the benefits that are due.

Veteran status is not automatic. To do this, you need to collect extracts from orders for participation in hostilities, military tickets, documents on injuries or awards received and submit them to a special commission.

“Obtaining a certificate and obtaining a status is very difficult. Even now, there are soldiers who are threatened with having their veteran status taken away for refusing to continue fighting in Ukraine. A person was sent to reorganize the group, he does not want to go further - and for this they want to deprive him of his certificate,” says human rights activist Sergei Krivenko.

How much is life worth

In exchange for protecting the homeland, the state must pay veterans a monthly allowance, provide housing, compensate for travel and utility costs, buy artificial limbs, and even install a telephone in an apartment without a queue. In practice, it is almost impossible to get all these benefits at once: they depend on the region of residence and the category of the veteran. For example, payments on Victory Day are due only to veterans of the Great Patriotic War, and in St. Petersburg only those who have lived in the city for at least 10 years can apply for apartments.

“Benefits and guarantees for combat veterans are scattered across different laws. About 10 years ago, they proposed to make a special law, where everything would be collected in one place - and obtaining status, and guarantees, and pensions. But the Ministry of Defense did not go for it, it is unprofitable for them. They like to mess around in the gray zone - this leaves more options for maneuver,” explains Krivenko.

On average, Russia estimates the willingness to risk their lives at about 56 thousand rubles a year - that is, four thousand rubles a month. This is exactly how much per veteran, if you add up the cost of all benefits at the federal and regional levels (for more details, see the section "How We Counted"). This amount increased sharply in 2020: then Vladimir Putin instructed to pay the participants in the war from 50 to 75 thousand rubles in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Victory.

In addition, veterans are entitled to an increased pension, but it is impossible to calculate its exact amount (why - in the section "As we thought"). According to the calculations of social policy experts carried out for Important Stories, in 2019 military pensioners received an average of 23,000 rubles a month. However, not all veterans have reached retirement age and served their due term: the military can count on a pension only after they have spent at least 20 years in the army.

How we counted

To calculate how much Russia spends per veteran per year, we added up the federal and regional budgets for this category and divided by the total number of all veterans.

Regional expenses for veterans are published annually by Rosstat. This report indicates how much housing, utility bills, medicines, vouchers to a sanatorium and other regional benefits cost each region. Expenses for veterans of the Great Patriotic War and veterans of other military operations are indicated separately.

Federal spending on veterans is noted in budget execution reports published by Roskazna. This includes monthly cash payments, as well as benefits that are paid in honor of Victory Day, but they are not separated by category of veterans. 

The federal budget also indicates how much money is spent on paying pensions to military personnel. In particular, in 2020, 762.3 billion rubles were spent on this. How much of this money was received by veterans, and how much - by other military personnel, is unknown. According to the Ministry of Defense, the military can receive 43 types of various pensions and benefits. We did not take these amounts into account in our calculations.

Veterans are not equal

Combat veterans are protected worse than veterans of the Great Patriotic War. This is clearly seen at the regional level: if regional authorities spend an average of 70,000 rubles per veteran of the Second World War, then only 900 rubles per veteran of other wars. This is almost 80 times less.

“Veterans of the Second World War really have quite large payments. Many of them have a disability, this is extra money. And less attention is riveted to war veterans, their problems and troubles do not cause such a great resonance,” explains an expert in social policy.

Veterans of Afghanistan and other wars have repeatedly complained about the inequality in the distribution of benefits. “A leg torn off by a mine in Stalingrad, in Panjshir or near Grozny hurts the same way, and the risk of getting a bullet in an attack from the enemy of our Motherland, whether it is called the USSR or Russia, is also the same for those who fought in the Great Patriotic War and for a combat veteran,” - members of the Veterans of Combat Actions for Justice movement addressed Vladimir Putin in 2020.

The movement has drafted a bill that would make benefits the same for veterans of all categories. The veterans also suggested raising the monthly payment to the level of the minimum wage, giving each veteran a car and giving them interest-free loans for any purpose. However, the state claims that there are no funds in the budget for this.

According to the new law, at least five billion rubles will be needed for payments to newly minted war veterans in Ukraine in 2022 . According to Important Stories, this money will be enough for a monthly allowance for another 120,000 people.

You have to wait 100 years

One of the main benefits for veterans is free housing. Only those who prove that they need to improve their living conditions can receive it. To do this, the veteran should not own housing, the area of ​​\u200b\u200b, which exceeds the standard for the region. 

If during the waiting time the veteran's family has additional square meters, he can be removed from the queue. This happened to Viktor Parakhnevich, an Afghan veteran.‎ In 2003, a man stood in line for housing. At that time, his family was registered in the apartment of his mother-in-law. Six people lived on 40 square meters. After a while, Viktor's mother-in-law received a cash certificate as the widow of a veteran of the Great Patriotic War and bought a one-room apartment of 20 square meters. In 2016, Viktor learned that he was excluded from the queue as unnecessary: ​​the norm for the region is 8 square meters, and Viktor's family members, taking into account the new apartment, now account for 10 square meters. Now the veteran rents a small apartment on the outskirts of Novosibirsk and cannot count on improving his living conditions. 

Even if the veteran manages to keep a place in the queue, it takes a very long time to wait for housing. According to Rosstat, at the end of 2019, the following were registered:

  • 482 veterans of the Great Patriotic War, 
  • 4,870 veterans of Afghanistan,
  • 41,876 other combat veterans.

Queues for different categories move at different speeds. Veterans of the Great Patriotic War in most regions receive housing in the same year or within a few years after they are registered. At the end of 2019, 482 veterans of the Great Patriotic War were on the waiting list for housing, 365 veterans received housing in a year. However, in some regions the situation is much worse. For example, in the Republic of Dagestan, only two families of veterans received apartments, while 56 families remained on the waiting list. In Crimea, four families received housing, 61 remained on the list of those in need. Most of the families of veterans at the end of 2019 were in the Pskov region - 104, while only 13 received housing. If the number of apartments issued does not change, the wait can stretch for decades. As a result, some veterans may not wait for their apartments. 

In 2017, a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, Vladimir Ruchkin, died in the village of Isakovo near Moscow waiting for the apartment laid down by law. He tried to get housing since 2005, but the local authorities refused to recognize the veteran's house as emergency, demanded that Vladimir conduct an examination at his own expense, and did not put him in the queue. 

The situation is even more difficult for combat veterans. By federal law "‎On Veterans,"‎ only those who were on the list of those in need before 2005 can receive housing on special conditions. Combat veterans who were registered after 2005 stand in a general queue along with orphans, families with many children, residents of emergency homes and other people in need. “Veterans of combat operations have the worst situation with housing, because there are still priority categories, for example, orphans. There are a lot of orphans, they need to be given housing. And this is resonant, they are watching it, ”a specialist in social policy told Important Stories. The purchase of housing for all needy citizens from the general queue is financed from the regional budget, and most of the regions in Russia are subsidized, they cannot provide for themselves from their own income and receive support from the federal budget.

This division puts combat veterans in an unequal position. According to Rosstat, at the end of 2019, 11,845 combat veterans who were registered before 2005 were on the waiting list for housing. Housing for the year received 1,551 people. There are almost three times as many veterans who registered after 2005 - 30,031 people. At the same time, three times fewer people in need received housing - 551 people.

If apartments are issued in the same number as in 2019, all combat veterans who joined the queue before 2005 will receive housing in 8 years, and veterans who got up after 2005 only after 54 years.

In order to somehow speed up the provision of housing for veterans, the government proposed an alternative - cash certificates. The amount of the certificate for veterans of the Great Patriotic War is calculated based on the market price for 36 square meters. For combat veterans, payments are more modest - the average market price for 18 square meters. The veteran must cover the missing amount for the purchase of an apartment on his own. At the same time, the market price, which is used in the calculation of certificates, is set by the Ministry of Construction and it can differ significantly from the real price per meter of housing in the region.

“It's better with certificates anyway. Of course, there is a problem that additional payments are required, but a person has the opportunity to choose housing in the place where he wants. When a person is tied to a queue, he can wait indefinitely, the queue does not move,” the social policy specialist believes.

But certificates can take a long time. In 2016, journalists from Tatarstan talked about Viktor Motkin, an Afghan veteran with a Group I disability. He stood in line for housing for 15 years, all this time he lived with his wife in a small room in a hostel, where even the bed donated by the union of veterans did not fit. In 2010, without his knowledge, the veteran was transferred from the queue for housing to the queue for a cash subsidy of 500 thousand rubles. But even this money for six years, Viktor did not receive. In social security, they explained to my wife that about two hundred veterans receive payments every year, and there are almost four thousand people in the queue, which means that it will take another 15 years to provide for everyone. 

Veterans who registered after 2005 have no right to a certificate at all. They can receive a housing benefit only by waiting for their place in the queue, but in many regions this is impossible: in 11 regions, the estimated waiting time exceeds one hundred years, and in another 18 regions, not a single person received an apartment in 2019.

The deputies of the Amur Region proposed to change the law and equalize the rights of all war veterans, regardless of when the person was registered, but the government refused, citing the fact that the proposed changes would require the allocation of additional budgetary allocations from the federal budget (the documents are in editorial order) . Therefore, veterans continue to stand in queues, often without hope of waiting for housing.

Save up for a prosthesis in eight years

By law, the state provides veterans with free medical care. They may be provided with artificial limbs or medicines, but their quality leaves much to be desired, and there are not enough state benefits for more modern treatment.

“Something is given to them for free, but the quality, as a rule, is not very good. The biggest problem is with rehabilitation: if a person needs it several times a year, then, firstly, it is expensive, and secondly, there is either a queue in state institutions or there is simply no such service at the place of residence. You have to go somewhere or go to private rehabilitation centers. This is what money is needed for,” says an expert in social support.

To get normal medical care, veterans have to turn to charitable foundations. In Russia, there are practically no organizations that are really involved in protecting the rights of veterans. Instead, they hold patriotic song contests and war games for children, and when the war begins, they write letters to Vladimir Putin and thank him for “cleansing Ukraine from fascist gangs.”

One of the largest funds to help veterans is Memory of Generations. It is supported by Sberbank and the presidential administration, and the State Duma deputy Valentina Tereshkova became the first head of the fund. As follows from the reporting, most of the money is spent on the rehabilitation of veterans: the purchase of electric wheelchairs, medical beds and walkers. In addition, hearing aids and dentures are expensive.

On average, the fund buys hearing aids for 70,000 rubles, and a prosthetic arm or leg for more than 450,000 rubles. To buy such a prosthesis on welfare on his own, the veteran would have to save eight years.


war and conflict reporting


War and Conflict

War and Conflict





two soldiers stand holding guns and wearing fatigues


Conflict & Peace

Conflict & Peace

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues