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Retired Officers Left Without Apartments

More than 20,000 retired military officers have been unable to move into apartments appropriated for them last year because of the low quality of housing and paralyzing bureaucratic procedures, the Defense Ministry said.

Fewer than half of the 45,646 apartments built for officers last year have been occupied, but the ministry plans to accommodate all of them by as early as June 1, Deputy Defense Minister Grigory Naginsky said Sunday.

Bureaucratic barriers have forced officers to wait five to eight months on average before moving into their apartments, he said.

In November, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised that by 2012, apartments would be provided for all military officers who have retired in the last 20 years.

Sergei, an officer stationed in the Moscow region who is going to retire this year, said he was satisfied with the quality of his new two-room apartment but that red tape was keeping him fr om moving in.

"I still can't move. I have all the documents signed, but in order for me to move, there has to be the defense minister's order. There isn't any order so far," said Sergei, who asked that his last name not be used.

While waiting for his apartment, Sergei has had to live in the dormitories provided for his former unit, which was recently disbanded.

"I can't be fired because I have no apartment, but I can't move, since I have no order and have my apartment only on paper," he told The Moscow Times.

Another problem, Naginsky said, is that some officers are refusing to move into apartments in the regions, instead requesting housing in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

He said that by June 1, 99 percent of the apartments built in 2009 would be occupied and that an additional 45,293 apartments would be built this year.

The developers that failed to supply high-quality apartments in 2009 have been included in Defense Ministry "black lists" and haven't received further orders from the ministry this year, he said without indicating which developers.

The Defense Ministry also is spending 90 billion rubles ($3.1 billion) over the next two years to provide housing for active-duty officers, in a project that Putin said would improve the country's demographic conditions by encouraging people to have children.

At the same time, it's not clear wh ere and how much housing is needed for active-duty officers, since some military cities are being closed, Naginsky said.

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