by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Oct 30, 2012
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian who designed the AK-47 assault rifle, on Tuesday called on President Vladimir Putin to halt the decline at the legendary factory where he invented the weapon.
Kalashnikov, 92, and 16 colleagues said in an open letter addressed to Putin that production had fallen to a record low at the Izmash motor and weaponry factory in Izhevsk, the main city in the central Russian region of Udmurtia.
"Respected Vladimir Vladimirmovich, we are forced to turn to you because of the catastrophic situation at what was once a manufacturing giant," the letter said.
"It is bitter and shameful to see how something built by more than one generation is being destroyed. Today the level of production is lower than ever."
"In the name of the veterans who have spent most of their lives working at Izmash, we ask you to save our factory," it said.
The letter said that qualified personnel were quitting the company as their salary was no more than 10,000 roubles (320 dollars) a month, a problem that had already sparked protests at the plant.
It also blamed the problems on the short term policies of the current management.
"The production of hunting and sport rifles has been halted and export contracts broken," the letter addressed to Putin said.
"It's already clear that state contracts for firearms production are not going to be realised," it said.
Izmash, whose history dates back to 1807 in the reign of Tsar Alexander I, is still one of the main producers of Russian weapons including the famed AK-47 (also known as Kalashnikov) and its derivatives.
However like several other specialised Russian industrial enterprises, it has been hit by the drying up of domestic demand after the collapse of the Soviet Union and failure to make up for this with foreign orders.
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