Russia mulls creating 'Kalashnikov' firearms firm
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Visitors look at displays during an exhibition of Michael Kalashnikov's private collection at the Artillery Museum in St. Petersburg, September 20, 2012. REUTERS photoRussia is considering creating a single firearms manufacturer named after the legendary rifle designer Mikhail Kalashnikov by merging two struggling firms, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.
Izhmash, the legendary factory in the central city of Izhevsk where Kalashnikov designed the iconic AK-47 assault rifle, has fallen on hard times since the collapse of the Soviet Union, owing to a fall of orders.
Putin gave his initial support to an idea of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin for Izhmash to merge with another Izhveshk arms manufacturer, Izhmekh, under the brand name Kalashnikov.
"As for the merger, this is of course possible," Putin said in televised remarks.
"But the result needs to be an improvement in the situation and in no way a worsening. And always in such cases there are many social questions, I ask you to pay attention to these," Putin told Rogozin.
Kalashnikov, 93, and 16 colleagues had raised alarm about the situation at Izhmash in an open letter to Putin last month, saying production had fallen to an all-time low and the factory needed to be saved.
Rogozin explained to Putin that the situation at the two Izhevsk firms was difficult since they had not received for many years orders from the defence ministry which is already well supplied with automatic rifles.
"I would like support in creating through the merger a cooperation where we can concentrate industrial potential and can make a modern firearms factory," he said.
Rogozin, a former ambassador to NATO with an eye for grand populist gestures, has already announced that Kalashnikov has agreed for his name to be used as a corporate brand.
Izhmash, 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.
Izhmekh, meanwhile, has a shorter but equally proud history that dates back to its founding in the midst of World War II in 1942.
According to Rogozin's plan, both companies would be merged under the name Kalashnikov as part of the giant state industrial conglomerate Russian Technologies.