Sergey Mezheritsky: ''Kazan makes the best gunpowder in the world!''

Elementary safety rules were not followed in the gunpowder factory

Before appointing a new director of the Kazan State Gunpowder Factory Federal Treasury Enterprise, Realnoe Vremya's reported talked to a member of the inter-agency working group of the college of the Military and Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation Sergey Mezheritsky to consider development prospects of the Kazan State Gunpowder Factory Federal Treasury Enterprise. But the latest statements of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade about the Tatarstan enterprise's move to Udmurtiya changed many focuses in the talk. Nevertheless, the conversation with the former director of the gunpowder factory who could have chaired it 15 years ago is quite interesting from a perspective of the enterprise's state.

Moscow opens a 'personal case' of the gunpowder factory

Mr Mezheritsky, what do you think about the current state of production capacities of the Kazan State Gunpowder Factory Federal Treasury Enterprise? I would like to start the conversation right with this question because after every accident officials of the factory told about technological and production obsolescence of the enterprise. Do you agree that the factory needs urgent modernisation including to prevent accidents?

I had a chance to chair the enterprise during probably the most uneasy years – from 1994 to 2002. During this year, the factory was about to go bankrupt got the status of treasury and conserved pyroxylin powder production. To tell the truth, the possibility of defence enterprises to go bankrupt in the 90s was quite high, I can say everyone was 'on the verge'. Now only three such ( pyroxylin) factories that manufacture the analogous products of the Kazan Gunpowder Factory remained in the country. After I completed the transformation of the factory into treasury, I immediately passed the business to Khalil Giniyatov. I knew about what happened, what accidents took place while working in the apparatus of the Russian government. Then I supervised the activity of treasury enterprises created in the country.


''There were made many offers about the factory's further fate. But I can't make them public because, I will repeat, they are keynote offers.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

It is difficult for me to evaluate the enterprise's current state 15 years after I left it. Before, on 2 August, an inter-agency working group under Chairman of the Scientific and Technical Council of the Military and Industrial Commission Yury Mikhailov was created. By the way, he also worked in the Kazan gunpowder factory. He chaired the State Research and Development Institute of Chemical Products that neighbours the gunpowder factory.

This commission was created to consider development prospects of the KSGF FTE: it will make a decision on its future. It consists of 16 people, Director of the Department of Conventional Weapons, Ammunition and Special Chemistry Industry of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia Dmitry Kapranov, Minister of Industry and Trade of Tatarstan Albert Karimov, Director of the regional administration of the Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service Boris Petrov are among them. But, first of all, gunpowder experts are on the commission. The first meeting took place on 28 August on the factory's production site.

Were any decision made?

As usual, the first is one is a keynote meeting. In other words, the current state of the factory was discussed. The task was to do the best, so that the enterprise will work safely, without accidents. There were made many offers about the factory's further fate. But I can't make them public because, I will repeat, they are keynote offers. The final decision will be made after a series of discussions.

How often are such commissions are created? How long do they 'live'?

I have come across such a practice for the first time and participate in them for the first time. The commission will stop working as soon as the final decisions are made that ensure the explosive enterprise's safe use.

''When Khalil Giniyatov announced in the media that ''I am afraid, but they wear synthetic clothes anyway'', I had a shock. An elementary discipline is needed, and there won't be accidents.'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Elementary safety rules were breached

Do you agree that the factory needs urgent modernisation?

I don't understand what the word urgent means. What do you mean?

It means fast modernisation. Does it mean that quick investments are needed?

What do money and modernisation have to do here?

Is it possible to modernise without money?

There are many things that can be done without money. The cause of all Kazan accidents is that simply the technological discipline and safety rules were not followed. The rule No. 1: before entering the factory, you need to get rid of static electricity (that's to say, you don't have the right to wear synthetic clothes). Working as a master, I must check what underwear the workers have on while entering the factory. When Khalil Giniyatov announced in the media that ''I am afraid, but they wear synthetic clothes anyway'', I had a shock. An elementary discipline is needed, and there won't be accidents. The director must provide people with necessary clothes without synthetic materials. This is why all the excuses about the workers' low salary have nothing to do here. They must be provided with safe clothes for work.

But obsolete production capacities were called as causes of the accident…

I don't think so. When people say an enterprise is 90% obsolete, it means it can't produce. And Kazan makes the best gunpowder in the world! France uses the same technology as Kazan to make gunpowder. Yes, the equipment is old but safe.

''When people say an enterprise is 90% obsolete, it means it can't produce. And Kazan makes the best gunpowder in the world!'' Photo: Vasily Maksimov (kommersant.ru)

About reformation of ammunition sector: gunpowder vertical is needed

Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov has recently stated to journalists that the creation of the concept on reformation of ammunition production ended. It presupposes a union of manufacturers. Do you know this concept? What a role does Kazan play in it?

I've seen several concepts. If I'm not mistaken, four concepts were adopted in the Russian government then. I don't know which one was completed. It is difficult to say their pros and cons, I've not seen the latest version. But the fact that the reformation programme is at the government level is already positive. As far as I am concerned, neither the first nor the second versions had a head structure that would collect everything. And remarks of the Russian government were about it – there is no head structure that will rule this process. Yes, one can make a pile of treasury enterprises with joint-stock companies, mix and prepare a good soup. I don't know the result. If the cook is good, the soup can also be delicious.

What does the head structure mean? Are we talking about the creation of a managing company to rule gunpowder factories?

The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade used to manage. There were heads and people who were responsible for the technological process from A to Z. Tell me who is responsible now?

Does the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade have limited management possibilities?

I think, yes. If now part of defence enterprises is in corporations, another part is in holdings, and the other part – is in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, it is even difficult to guess how the Ministry of Industry and Trade will manage it. It is difficult. Probably something has changed in the latest version, I don't know. I think the concept will be changing for a long time. Saying it was completed means to make a very promising statement.

''If now part of defence enterprises is in corporations, another part is in holdings, and the other part – is in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, it is even difficult to guess how the Ministry of Industry and Trade will manage it.'' Photo: oreninform.ru

The gunpowder factory was to be made bankrupt as early as 16 years ago

You have worked in the Kazan gunpowder factory for 24 years and chaired it for 8 years. The enterprise became treasury under you. Were there any alternative options?

As I already said, it was offered to make it bankrupt for debts. This is why the only possibility to save it was to make it treasury when the country is liable for the subsidiary's debts, which was done. I want to say as a secret that the gunpowder factory is the only case when the debts were not 'written off', though the country did not expend money to pay them off. We covered all the debts by dividing balance sheet. We sent part of the property to the Federal Unitarian Enterprise Federal Research and Development Centre State Kazan Research and Development Enterprise named after V.I. Lenin with the help of the dividing balance sheet – it is a bankrupt enterprise that sold its assets and wrote its debt off. And a 'clean' federal treasury enterprise was founded, which was created from scratch. And it was given 50m rubles to write its salary debt off. As a result, all the debts were paid off, the bankrupt factory was completed and closed.

Why did not you remain as director of the treasury enterprise?

Do you ask me this question? (laughing) I paid money to lenders, and I was not offered (the post of director of the Federal Treasury Enterprise). Other people came who chaired the factory in the end.

It seemed to me you just got promotion.

It is how it happened. I supervised all the treasury enterprises that were created after the gunpowder factory. I won't say the volume of state orders they got. But the state doesn't leave treasury enterprises without support. I can say that up to 5bn rubles were annually included in the federal budget to pay subsidies to treasury enterprises until they get a positive balance between incomes and costs. If the country doesn't give enough state orders, it must compensate all the costs on salary, gas, electricity. If orders increase and the enterprise gains profit, 75% of the profit remain to develop the enterprise and 25% are sent to the budget.

Looking back we see that the biggest number of accidents took place under Giniyatov.

I will repeat again that the main cause of the accident is in the absence of the elementary technological discipline, non-compliance with technological processes and safety rules. Let the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade and other structures, who are responsible, decide who is guilty here. I have no right to give the verdict.

By Luiza Ignatyeva
Industry Defence Industry