Putin orders back wages paid

By Staff Writers
The Moscow Times

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered Kaliningrad's governor to pay wage arrears to employees of the bankrupt airline KD Avia, hours after angry workers staged a protest.

Putin told Governor Georgy Boos to pay off the airline's 480 million rubles ($17 million) in wage arrears with funds that the federal government sent to Kaliningrad over the summer to support the airline, RIA-Novosti reported.

Putin's decision was a victory for the airline's 2,300 employees, who have not been paid for months.

About 200 of them gathered in pouring rain beside a World War II memorial in central Kaliningrad earlier in the day, waving red flags and chanting "wages, wages."

"Where is our money?" asked a banner held up by aviation technician Sergei Zhigun, who was last paid seven months ago. "KD Avia is another Pikalyovo," read another banner.

In June, Putin traveled to the town of Pikalyovo, about 270 kilometers from St. Petersburg, and forced billionaire Oleg Deripaska to restart operations at a factory following protests from unpaid workers.

Transportation Minister Igor Levitin said Transaero and Aeroflot have taken over routes serviced by KD Avia but there were no buyers for the airline's business in Kaliningrad. "No one will be able to do it during the crisis," Levitin said, citing a 15 percent fall in passenger traffic in the first nine months of 2009.

KD Avia has filed for bankruptcy and is under external management. The debts of the airline, whose main shareholder is its main creditor, Bank St. Petersburg, amount to 11 billion rubles.

October 28, 2009 — Return to cover.