Tag Archives: Noncombat Losses

Exercise Casualties

Russia’s fall exercises took a toll on some conscripts participating in them.  Three were killed in Union Shield-2011 at Ashuluk, and two more may have died during Tsentr-2011.

Life.ru reports a conscript died on September 26 from injuries sustained in a fall from a railroad platform while loading equipment during Union Shield-2011.

According to IA Regnum, at Ashuluk on September 24, an automated command and control system operator, a draftee, was found dead in a KamAZ.  An officer and two conscripts had to wait for help overnight when their vehicle broke down.  One of the conscripts apparently died during the night. 

On September 20, a Russian attack aircraft fired an errant air-to-surface rocket that flew several kilometers from its intended target before exploding, killing one soldier and injuring a second.  IA Rosbalt also noted Ashuluk was the scene of an August 23 ordnance accident that killed eight soldiers.

News outlets and military spokesmen are publicly disputing whether two tank crewmen died of carbon monoxide poisoning while President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov reviewed the concluding phase of Tsentr-2011 at Chebarkul on September 27. 

According to Novyy region, a Chelyabinsk rights activist says two conscripts died and the military is trying to cover up the accident.  Another source says the two men are hospitalized in critical and serious condition respectively.  The army says the men were poisoned by powder gases during training before Tsentr, and will soon be discharged from the hospital.  The Central MD’s press-service says the exercise was conducted without incidents, accidents, or equipment failures.

Military prosecutors are investigating at least some of these incidents.

Advertisements

Suicidal Lieutenants

President Toasts the Kuropatkins (photo: Aleksandr Astafyev)

The Pacific Fleet command and investigators say the shooting of a 22-year-old lieutenant assigned to a 35-year-old LST in Fokino was a suicide attempt, and not the result of ‘nonregulation relations’ or dedovshchina.  The incident occurred 1 December.  Lieutenant Maksim Kuropatkin was found with a gunshot wound to the head, and he remains in a coma.  Investigators say he shot himself with his service sidearm in the presence of two witnesses.  No criminal case has been initiated.  Their preliminary conclusion is that Kuropatkin suffered a nervous breakdown caused by difficulty adapting to life in the service.

Moskovskiy komsomolets point out the Kuropatkin case is a little special because President Dmitriy Medvedev was the surprise guest of honor at the lieutenant’s wedding in early July.  Medvedev was touring the Far East, and arrived at Birobidzhan’s wedding palace in time to witness three marriages including Kuropatkin’s.  Medvedev wished the lieutenant and his bride a “long happy family life.”  He ordered the governor of the Jewish AO to find apartments for all three couples.  About a month ago, the Kuropatkins got their apartment.

Kuropatkin’s family doesn’t believe his shooting was a suicide attempt.  They say he was always goal-oriented, and aimed for a military career from age 14 (presumably he attended a Nakhimov Naval School).  He graduated from the Pacific Naval Institute late this spring, married, and had been in his first assignment only a couple months.

They also say Kuropatkin recently mentioned the name of a senior officer who often picked on him, and was constantly nagging him to draw up some kind of documents, and when Kuropatkin refused, he said, “Well, that’s it, it’s the end for you.” 

A 24-year-old lieutenant named Ivan Yegorov died in what was also called a suicide aboard Slava-class CG Varyag in mid-November.  MK sums up saying:

“According to the opinion of knowledgeable people, dedovshchina in the officer environment ranges up to physical violence and shootings.”

RIA Novosti also reported a Baltic Fleet suicide this week.  A 23-year-old lieutenant from the Pionerskiy garrison reportedly shot himself in the chest with a Makarov pistol.  He apparently left a note.  The chair of the Kaliningrad Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers said she was completely surprised by this incident, adding that there have never been “any signals” of problems from the unit where this lieutenant served.

Story of a Noncombat Loss

Albert Kiyamov (photo: Chita.ru)

A recent case illustrates why most Russians don’t want their sons – especially talented, well-educated ones – to serve in the army.  It’s a tale of senseless violence and abuse going beyond dedovshchina , bullying, or hazing.  And it highlights how contract service makes sadistic riff-raff into unprofessional NCOs, and tormentors of the conscripts they’re intended to lead.  

For their part, more VUZ graduates are ending up in the army given the military’s need for higher numbers of draftees and its tighter enforcement of conscription rules.  The army believes more educated conscripts will make service safer, but it may just make them the victims of violence in the ranks. 

The investigation into the May death of a conscript named Albert Kiyamov in Transbaykal Kray recently ended with the filing of criminal charges against company sergeant Sergey Lugovets. 

Kiyamov was a promising graduate with a degree in nuclear physics, who’d been picked for a job in the Scientific-Research Institute of Nuclear Reactors.  But he got called-up in April.  According to Newsru.com, his family thinks his poor vision should have made him unfit to serve. 

Lugovets enlisted in the army despite a suspended sentence for theft in Volgograd Oblast, and became a sergeant in the headquarters company of the 36th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade in Borzya (v/ch 06705).  According to Utro.ru, he quickly established ‘his order’ in the company.  And he picked Kiyamov to be his main victim. 

Kiyamov endured days of beatings and humiliation from Lugovets before jumping to his death from a fourth-story barracks window on May 14. 

According to Newsru.com, the command told Kiyamov’s family it was a simple suicide, but they refused to accept this, believing – based on the number of bruises and abrasions on his body – he’d been beaten, then thrown from the window.  The SibVO military prosecutor at first denied observing evidence of prior beatings on Kiyamov’s body.  But an investigation ensued. 

Sergeant Lugovets didn’t deny his guilt, but claimed he was trying to ‘teach’ Kiyamov how to conduct himself around his ‘seniors.’  He faces a possible 10-year sentence for “violating regulation rules of relations between servicemen, entailing serious consequences.” 

The unit’s officers were attending an exercise at the time of this incident, and military investigators gave them a warning to eliminate the kinds of violations that led to Lugovets’ abuse of Kiyamov.  

Vitaliy Cherkasov, Director of the Transbaykal Legal Defense Center, told Newsru.com about a similar incident in Borzya more recently, but, in this case, the soldier sustained serious injuries, and survived to be discharged from the army.  A legal defense group told Utro.ru the Kiyamov tragedy was possible because the Defense Ministry allows men with criminal records to sign up for contract service [of course, it drafts some with criminal records too]. 

Units in Borzya, and the Transbaykal generally, have a substantial history of problems with violence and abuse in the ranks.  On the positive side, investigators are getting to the truth in some cases, but too late for kids like Albert Kiyamov.

Victim of the ‘New Profile’

Obvious individual suffering from Serdyukov’s ‘New Profile’ military reforms hasn’t been readily apparent until now.

Russian media today carried sad news about a 34-year-old lieutenant colonel, one Aleksey Kudryavtsev, serving in Udmurtiya, who hung himself in the forest upon learning his unit would be disbanded.

Press said he served in v/ch 93233, which Yandex shows is the military commissariat [draft and mobilization office] for Igra Rayon of the Udmurt Republic.  Kudryavtsev must have been one of the few remaining uniforms in the commissariat since most military men were early victims of Serdyukov’s cut in the officer corps.  Some officers have been able to serve on as civilians.

Despondent on finding out about his imminent dismissal, the lieutenant colonel stood to lose not only his post, but also his service apartment.  He wrote his wife a note saying not to look for him and to start a new family, and then disappeared last September.  His body was finally located in a remote wooded area.  He left sons of 4 and 8 behind.

Newsru.com and Argumenty nedeli covered the story.

Yesterday’s Military Crime Report

The number and details of military crimes reported in yesterday’s press were above average and more interesting than usual.  They illustrate the kinds of pathologies the Defense Ministry confronts on a daily basis.

From Toglyatti, a noncombat loss.  An army conscript hung himself.  The military has reported nothing suspicious about this, except that the young man had transferred to this unit from another.  Conscripts sometimes obtain transfers to escape hazing, dedovshchina, etc.

From the MVO, the district’s chief of staff, first deputy commander of Rocket Troops and Artillery, one Colonel Aleksandr Zemlyanskiy, stands accused of using a conscript to guard and do household chores at his dacha in Moscow Oblast for five months last year.  The RF Prosecutor’s Investigative Committee’s Military Investigative Directorate investigated Zemlyanskiy’s case.  That’s a lot of investigating.  The colonel faces up to 4 years in prison.

From Reutov near Moscow, the personnel chief for an MVO unit, one Lieutenant Colonel Dmitriy Vasin, stands accused of demanding bribes in exchange for performing normal duties.  Obtaining the next military rank cost 15,000 rubles, an expedited dismissal from the armed forces cost 70,000 rubles.  For an extra 20,000, officers could get dismissed from the service and keep a place in the unit’s line for permanent housing.  Vasin could get 5 years.

From Chechnya, the SKVO, the finance chief of a unit got 4 years for exceeding his authority by paying out 3 million rubles to ten individuals with a court order for back combat pay owed to them.  The finance chief did not seek his commander’s permission to issue the pay although he knew their court documents were forgeries.

From the DVO, near Khabarovsk, a former unit commander got a year for extorting 3,000 rubles a month from an officer put outside the TO&E on health grounds, but kept on the unit’s books since he lacked permanent housing.  The 3,000 was the price for keeping him on the books, without him having to report to the unit every day.   

In the DVO, a lieutenant forced 9 contractees to work unpaid for four years in a private security company called “Deon.”  And he also stole their military pay amounting to 3 million rubles over time.  He beat one of the men.  The lieutenant got a 4 year sentence.

Lastly, again from the DVO, Novaya gazeta reports today on a case from 2008.  The VSU has started a criminal case against a former deputy regiment commander for socialization work, one Lieutenant Colonel Novokhatniy. 

He abused a handcuffed conscript on the parade ground in front of 500 men.  No one tried to stop it, and one of Novokhatniy’s subordinates videotaped the incident (you can view it on the Novgaz link). 

Local authorities complained about lawlessness, fights, and even murders at the regiment in letters to the Defense Minister, General Prosecutor, and DVO Commander:

“The condition of discipline in the unit can’t stand any criticism, it’s time to defend the civilian population from the contingent sent to serve here.”

One officer finally complained to the regiment commander and military prosecutor, and Novokhatniy punched him.  But all the incidents were hushed up, and Novokhatniy actually ran and won election to the rayon assembly for the South Kurils as a member of the ruling United Russia party. 

At some point, the officer who was punched turned the videotape of the incident over to the DVO’s VSU.  And the VSU came after Novokhatniy, who readily admitted his actions, as well as a couple of his cronies.

All in all, a remarkable day of military crime reports; not a typical day exactly, but remarkable, and lamentable.

The Trouble Brigade

Trouble at the Gate (photo: tv100.ru)

Things go from bad to worse for the LenVO’s troubled 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, based at Kamenka.  A possibly armed standoff involving Dagestan natives outside one battalion, a suspicious suicide, two noncombat losses in live fire training at night, the list goes on . . .

At mid-day Saturday, 20 men from Dagestan’s diaspora living near the area showed up at the gate of one of the brigade’s battalions in Sapernoye.  They were seeking revenge on a lieutenant, himself a native of Dagestan, for some unidentified reason.  The unit fired warning shots, and local police came and detained some of the men, and dispersed the others.

Newsru.com put the number of men from Dagestan at 40, with 18 detained by police.

A law enforcement source told Gazeta.ru that a dispute between a former contractee from Dagestan, living in area, and the lieutenant from Dagestan was the reason for the incident, but the nature of the dispute between the two men is unclear.

The battalion commander came to the group of men, and tried to talk with them, but after some talking they again tried to get through to the battalion’s barracks.  ITAR-TASS reports he was escorting two of the men to the barracks to try to resolve the situation when the others tried to enter the base.  The commander then raised the unit’s alarm, and warning shots were fired.  The nearest police had to come from Priozersk, 50 kilometers away.  Before the incident at the gate, there was apparently a fight between two groups of Dagestan natives at a school.  The Priozersk police deny reports that the group at the gate was armed.

The LenVO Commander reportedly came to Sapernoye and talked to local elders from Dagestan.  Locally registered residents originally from Dagestan apparently tried to stop this group of men who are reportedly unregistered ‘transients.’

In Sapernoye, they say the men beat battalion commander Andrey Myshyakov; he declined to comment, but said everything was fine with him.  Newsru.com reported that he suffered moderate head injuries after the beating.  ITAR-TASS also says he was beaten and hospitalized in stable condition.  Its source is the press service of the Military Investigative Directorate (VSU) of the RF SKP.

Gazeta.ru says that police and FSB military counterintelligence officers are on the streets of Sapernoye.  The investigation into this incident continues.

There was an earlier incident, in August 2005, in which two lieutenants found a conscript from Dagestan dressed in civilian clothes in a local bar.  When they ordered him back to the barracks, the situation escalated into nearly three nights of fights at the bar.  Four lieutenants were beaten, and the Dagestan natives apparently called for reinforcements from their kinsmen in St. Petersburg.

Also over the weekend, the 138th Brigade revealed the reported suicide of a conscript who was working as a bookkeeper for the brigade.  He had an honors degree from the Kaluga Budget and Finance Academy.

Investigators have reliably determined that he didn’t kill himself because of poor relations with other servicemen, and his family and friends say there’s no way he’d have hung himself.  St. Petersburg’s ‘Soldiers’ Mothers’ believe his ‘suicide’ could be connected with his work in the brigade’s finance section, where nothing happens without machinations.  They believe he may have learned about irregularies in the formation’s finances.

On the night of 8-9 April, two 138th brigade lieutenants were killed in a tank fire accident on its Bobochinskiy Range.  Apparently, a junior sergeant commanding a tank lost orientation and fired into the rear part of the range, directly hitting its central fire control point and killing the two officers.  A host of investigators continues to examine the circumstances.  The press noted a September 2008 incident in which an MRL fired off range, putting one rocket within 50 meters of a highway, damaging a vehicle but not harming its occupants.

Finally, the aftermath of sergeants beating conscripts in the brigade this fall . . . recall that the Defense Ministry did a vertical stroke on the brigade’s leadership for this, 8 officers were dismissed, but that’s not all.

It’s come to light since that, on his way out, the soon-to-be ex-brigade commander and other dismissed officers managed to receive hefty bonuses of 2-3 million rubles.  Officers who kept their posts got nothing.  For his misuse of his soon-to-be ex-post and the brigade’s finances, the former brigade commander could get 4 years in prison.