MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Interior Ministry troops were fed dog food earlier this year to save money, a former officer in the ministry said Thursday.
A rare whistleblower in Russia’s expansive security forces, ex-Major Igor Matveyev said officers tried to cover up the scandal and other alleged wrongdoing at the Interior Ministry troops base where he served in the far east city of Vladivostok.
Matveyev, who served in Russia’s wars against Chechen separatists in the 1990s, said he was ordered dismissed after posting a video on the Internet this month alleging widespread corruption in the Interior Ministry forces.
No one at the ministry’s troop unit was immediately available to comment on his allegations.
“It’s embarrassing to say but soldiers here were fed dog food. It was fed to them as stew,” Matveyev said in an interview with Reuters, adding that dog food labels were covered up with labels reading ‘premium quality beef’.
He said he would contest a dismissal order issued by a superior after he posted the nearly 10-minute video, in which he asked President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to intervene.
“It took me a month to determine through various reports exactly what was happening,” he said by phone from Vladivostok, some 6,400 km (4,000 miles) east of Moscow.
The Interior Ministry troops command was cited by Russian agencies as saying that a number of the incidents Matveyev described had occurred, but that they had long ago been dealt with and that an investigation had been started.
President Dmitry Medvedev has said rampant corruption in the ranks is one of the biggest problems facing Russia’s security forces.
The Interior Ministry maintains units of troops across Russia responsible for domestic security. They are separate from the army, which comes under the Defense Ministry.
Russia’s security services are at odds with themselves as they undergo unpopular reforms that are aimed at restructuring the military’s officer and troop structure, which critics such as Matveyev say is ridden with corruption.
“This doesn’t happen by accident, it is a system. Reforms are ongoing and we have to come out and say these things, we have to pay attention to these issues,” he said.
He added that 18 illegal migrant laborers were housed at the Vladivostok base for a month and a half and were used for clean-up and construction jobs.
“They were Koreans or Chinese, I don’t know because they did not have any documents,” he said.
He also said that property on the base had been sold off without permission to make money for the officers, but did not specify what had been sold or to whom.
The authorities have not said whether they are investigating that specific allegation.
Editing by Jon Boyle