Tag Archives: Suicides

Curious Coincidence

Danila Chaykin

IA Regnum reported today that a Russian conscript serving in Tajikistan apparently shot himself to death on January 29 while pulling guard duty.  A sad though fairly routine occurrence.  The reasons are unclear.  The unfortunate young man, Danila Chaykin, seemed to be doing well in the service.

But Chaykin wasn’t just any conscript.  He previously served alongside Ruslan Ayderkhanov in the Yelan military garrison.  You’ll recall several months ago Ayderkhanov was apparently savagely beaten before his attackers hanged him to make it look like he committed suicide.

According to the press agency, Chaykin was a witness in whatever investigation of Ayderkhanov’s death took place.  But Ayderkhanov’s case was closed when military investigators almost unbelievably concluded there was no evidence of dedovshchina or other barracks violence.  They say he hung himself for personal reasons.

Recapping Interfaks and Life.ru coverage, Lenta says military officials suggest Chaykin took his life because his girlfriend married someone else.  But his friends say he didn’t have a girl, and he was due to demob in a couple months.  Meanwhile, Life.ru claims Chaykin had six gunshot wounds on his body.

Lenta’s version says Chaykin and Ayderkhanov were friends, and the former was questioned about the latter’s death.  Then they transferred Chaykin to Tajikistan.

Transfers of one-year conscripts are pretty rare in the Russian Army, though not unheard of when it comes to manning units in Tajikistan.

It seems a really curious coincidence that Chaykin too would kill himself.  Or was it a move to silence an inconvenient witness?

It’s odd too that the Ayderkhanov case — a case of patently obvious abuse –would die so quietly and completely.

Why does the Russian military, or someone higher up, want to conceal the truth about what happened at Yelan?  The authorities are very nervous about crimes that take place on a “national” [i.e. ethnic] basis.  It’s been postulated that Ayderkhanov was targeted because he was Tatar.

As recently as five or six years ago, there were people who would fight for answers and accountability.  One fears there are fewer today.  Maybe fear itself is greater now.

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The Ayderkhanov Case (Part I)

Ruslan Ayderkhanov

Here’s what looks like a case where the beating death of a conscript is being passed off as another suicide in the ranks.  We addressed this here, and the tragic Ayderkhanov case broke into the news just 11 days later.  This sad story deserved attention sooner than your author was able to give it.

Thursday Newsru.com reported Ayderkhanov’s body has been exhumed for additional medical examination to determine the cause and circumstances of his death.  Official examiners as well as one independent expert, Aleksandr Vlasov, will take part in the process which, according to RIA Novosti, should take two weeks.

Newsru recapped the basic facts.  On August 31, the 20-year-old Ayderkhanov went missing from V / Ch 55062, part of the Yelan garrison, located in Poroshino, Chelyabinsk Oblast.  His body was found hanging from a tree in nearby woods on September 3.

The military authorities were quick to label this an obvious suicide, but his relatives were suspicious about injuries all over Ayderkhanov’s body.  He had teeth knocked out, a broken leg, a missing eye, a knife wound in his chest, and burns, bruises, and abrasions.

The Yelan garrison’s military prosecutor opened an Article 110 “Incitement to Suicide” investigation, but just as quickly announced there were no facts indicating violence or the “violation of the regulations on mutual relations” [i.e. abuse] against Ayderkhanov.  The prosecutor concluded the soldier was simply depressed about the death of his mother last winter. 

The Main Military Prosecutor stated categorically there was no evidence of a beating, and any injuries on Ayderkhanov’s body were from banging against the tree on which he hung himself.  The GVP categorically rejected the idea of exhuming and examining the body again.

Radio Svoboda quoted GVP directorate chief Aleksandr Nikitin:

“There is evidence that his death was not a result of violent actions.”

RIA Novosti continued from Nikitin:

“A close examination of the place of death and Ayderkhanov’s body was conducted.  The investigation established that there are not any traces of violence which could have caused the serviceman’s death on the body.”

Ruslan Ayderkhanov

Nakanune.ru quoted a Central MD spokesman:

“According to preliminary data, no facts of nonregulation relations have appeared.  But if the guilt of officials is proven, they will be punished in the most strict way.”

According to Radio Svoboda, after the GVP proved no help, Chelyabinsk’s human rights ombudsman approached Aleksandr Vlasov.  Vlasov has stated his professional opinion that Ayderkhanov was struck at least 18 times while he was still alive.

Part II tomorrow.

Suicide Watch (Part II)

Let’s look at more unusual suicide cases (or reported attempts).  Recall the story of Albert Kiyamov – beaten by a sergeant and pushed to his death from a barracks window in May 2010.  There’s still no word on the investigation or charges against the sergeant.  And there was a similar case reported in the same brigade after Kiyamov was killed.

While these seemed like isolated incidents, defenestrations apparently aren’t aberrations.  The authorities are hard-pressed to determine whether young soldiers are jumping or being pushed to cover up other crimes and violence. Suffice it to say the line between suicide and murder in the Russian Army is blurry. 

In late August, a conscript was beaten and thrown from the fourth floor of a barracks in the 35th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.  According to Newsru.com, the victim’s father, rights defenders, and other conscripts say two soldiers tried to take his personal items, uniform articles, and boots before beating and pushing him off the building.  He survived the fall, but broke his arms and legs. 

The military prosecutor determined there were “nonregulation relations” in the unit, and charges have been filed against the perpetrators.  But the prosecutor claims the victim jumped to escape his attackers, according to IA Regnum.

In mid-July, a conscript in a Railroad Troops brigade in Stavropol apparently argued with a major before the officer hit him several times with the butt of a rifle, according to Newsru.com.  The soldier then, according to the prosecutor’s account, jumped from the fifth story of his barracks sustaining numerous injuries including several broken bones.  His parents said he’d told them about this particular officer.  In somewhat uncharacteristic fashion, the major quickly acknowledged using force against the conscript, and was relieved of duty.  But no charges of forcing someone to attempt suicide.

In late May, a conscript hung himself in a unit in Mari El.  He was beaten before this because he refused to give other soldiers 1,000 rubles.  The victim’s parents believe these men killed their son.  The case is being investigated under Article 110 “Incitement to Suicide.”

In early February, a conscript in a unit near Orenburg was found dead in his bunk with a knife in his chest.  Two junior sergeants apparently killed the young man in a fight, then tried to make it look like suicide.

In mid-January, a conscript shot himself twice on a firing range at the training center in Yelan.  The confused incident has been classified variously as an accident, suicide, and murder.  According to Komsomolskaya pravda, the victim told his family he’d been forced to sign a request to serve in a unit in Tajikistan.

While most Russian Army suicide victims are conscripts, there are other cases, and other circumstances.  In mid-March, a warrant officer from a Moscow unit shot and killed his wife before turning the gun on himself.

Finally, a last poignant case, in early September, a young man jumped from the roof of a nine-story apartment block in Orel just days before he was due to report to his unit near Moscow.  It’s unknown why he killed himself or what he felt about going to serve.

Despite reducing conscription to one year and “humanizing” military service, the Russian Army remains a violent, dangerous place.  Conscription keeps it a lumpen army in which there are few limits, and the strong prey on the weak pretty much without restraint.  The violence remains a significant reason why those who can still avoid serving.

The Defense Ministry no longer publishes its monthly and yearly statistics on “noncombat losses,” crime, and accidents in the Armed Forces.  But it seems the suicide rate is as high as it was two, three, or four years ago – 20 some per month, and 200 or 250 suicides annually.  Still basically a full “suicide battalion” every year.  There’s just not enough public or political outrage to change the situation.  

Suicide Watch (Part I)

Russia has a high suicide rate by world standards.  And a significant number of 18- and 19-year-old Russian males are prone to suicide for various reasons – everything from problems with girlfriends to drug abuse and psychological or behavioral disorders.  But subject them to the stresses of compulsory military service and suicide appears to become more likely.

Russian Army service is dangerous even without suicides.  “Noncombat losses” result from training mishaps, infectious diseases, ordnance explosions, transportation accidents, and murder. 

Though intended to, the shift to one-year conscription has probably not reduced dedovshchina – the catchall term once connoting petty hazing of younger conscripts by their elders but now encompassing a wide range of barracks violence, abuse, and crime against soldiers.

Dedovshchina has always had potential to drive desperate conscripts to take their own lives to escape it.  Hence, the majority of Russian Army suicide cases are investigated under Article 110 of the RF Criminal Code, “Incitement to Suicide.”  Western legal tradition has long experience with incitement, but “incitement to suicide” is a little unusual.  Not so for Russian military prosecutors and criminal investigators.

With only a little digging, here’s a sad list of some recent Russian Army suicide (or attempted suicide) cases:

  • In late August, a conscript on guard duty in Volgograd shot himself, leaving a suicide note blaming dedovshchina in his unit.  The case is being investigated under Article 110.
  • In late August, a conscript from a Krasnoyarsk unit was detailed to the Railroad Troops brigade in Abakan to help prepare for Tsentr-2011.  With only three months left to serve, he went AWOL, and  apparently hung himself.
  • In mid-August, a conscript in Kaliningrad jumped off the boiler house roof and sustained a number of serious injuries, but survived.  He had left a note asking that no one be blamed in his death.
  • In early August, a conscript in the 735th Missile Regiment, 62nd Missile Division in Uzhur killed himself while on guard duty at night.  He had served six months.
  • In early March, in Belogorsk, a conscript due to demob in a few days shot himself to death.
  • In early February, a conscript in Sergeyevka shot himself to death.  The case was being investigated under Article 110.

It’s rare for the Russian press to publish much follow up on what exactly happened with these young men.

Tomorrow we’ll look at some less routine cases.