Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg non-governmental presentation

en

Raz'ezzhaya ulica, 9, 191002 SAINT-PETERSBURG
Tel/fax: 007-812-1124199; 1125058; e-mail: info@soldiersmothers.spb.org

Foreword

The organisation "Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg" is a non-governmental human rights organisation that defends the rights of conscripts, recruits and their relatives. The Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg is a member of the Russian NGO coalition

for an International Criminal Court, the association "Stop Conscription in Europe Now!" and an associated member of Pax Christi International.

Founded in 1991, the Soldiers' Mothers obtained an enormous number of witness accounts of violations of human and civil rights, especially regarding the military recruitment and military service. The terrible circumstances in which the Russian Army currently operates is well known to the international community. These circumstances are not only the result of financial problems or the fall of military prestige. Most of all, they find their roots in corruption, arbitrariness, immorality, impunity and the imperfect nature of legislation.

The Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg would like to express their deep concern about the worsening situation in the Russian Army and, as a consequence, in Russian society. The number of registered human rights violations increases, as are the different types of these violations. The growing criminality inside the military structures puts the whole Russian society in danger. Instead of dealing with the criminal situation in the army, authorities shut there eyes or express complicit approval. This complete impunity shows the weakness of the rule of law in Russia.

By addressing this report to the UN Commission for Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and other institutions, the Soldiers' Mothers would like to provide them with a non-governmental, civilian view on what is happening nowadays in the Russian army, in military units throughout the whole country and on the battlefield in Chechnya.

Furthermore, this document may also serve to inform the Council of Europe, when Russia's membership is being discussed.

The European Commission and the European Parliament are eager to receive information from non-governmental organisations to enable them to build an objective opinion on their close neighbour Russia. Russia is showing a tendency towards the European Union where foreign policy and economics are concerned. Also the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe might find this information useful.

This report is based on ten years of experience of the Soldiers' Mothers, on collected witness accounts and other material from the Soldiers' Mothers' archive.

Contents :


Introduction

Russia is a member of the Security Council of the United Nations Organisation, a member of the Council of Europe and partner in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Furthermore, it has many common historical roots with Europe and leans towards the European Union. Therefore it is extremely important for the European and international communities to have an idea of what is happening in this vast country.

Although Russia experienced a period of "glasnost" (openness), the current of information to the West remains very small and fragmentary. The taking over of the independent broadcast company NTV by the pro-Putin "Gazprom" is likely to worsen this situation even further. Press freedom is endangered, as well as freedom of speech.

Military organs of power play a very active role in this Russian policy of withholding information from citizens. The Russian Army is still a secret institution, without any civil control.

When Yeltsin was president, he made army reform one of the core points on his agenda. He promised the citizens of Russia that he would reform the huge conscript army into a modern, professional army. And this before the year 2000. It is now 2001, and Russia has a new president, but nothing has changed.

The Russian army is a conscript army, which means it has only a small group of professional soldiers while the majority of servicemen are recruits without higher education. Russian conscripts come mostly from rural areas or from very poor layers of society, where survival is more important than school education.

Furthermore, conscription is obligatory to all young men (except for those cases mentioned in Russian legislation), which means they do not have any choice. They have to spend a certain period of their life in that army, and remain available as reserve forces after that. In Russia the military service lasts two years. In order to maintain such a huge army two things are vital: money and people. Russia lacks both resources.

In 1999, some thirty medical experts[1] published a book on the health of teenagers, the conclusions of which are highly alarming for Russian society. As a consequence of this deplorable health situation, there are not enough young men to be conscripted into this mass army. The conscription plan allows for lower recruitment each time, but the amount is still higher than legally possible. In order to fulfil the plan the military has to use repressive methods to fill its ranks: roundups in metro stations, on the street, in student houses, even at home. And this is done with the help of the militia.

The biggest concern, though, is caused by the war in Chechnya. This war has a negative effect on the human rights situation in the army itself and in society as a whole. The recruits and officers who fight in this southern republic learn extremely vicious methods of torturing and killing. The brutal use of violence against civilians has its effect on the life in the barracks. Soldiers who fought in Chechnya are proud of having killed Chechens or Russian citizens living in Chechnya, of having tortured them. There are no pangs of conscience; they feel no shame. These soldiers return to civilian society with little respect for the sanctity of human life and a highly debased concept of Law and Order. This degradation of their moral values represents an enormous threat to civilised society as ethnic cleansing begins to extend beyond Chechnya throughout the Russian Federation.

As a consequence of both the localized and ever more widespread effects of the Chechen wars, the organisation has taken an anti-war position for many years and considers that these wars in Chechnya are both genocide and a crime against humanity. We believe that the Armed Forces have been employed against the peaceful inhabitants in Chechnya in an unwarrantable and disproportionate manner. We are drawing the attention of the international community to the growing racism against Chechen people in Russia, an attitude with the authorities are actively implanting and advocating through propaganda.

In this report, the Soldiers' Mothers describe the daily reality in many, many Russian military units, not just in the Saint Petersburg area, but throughout all of the territory of the Russian Federation. The stories, told by witnesses, could all serve as a scenario for horror movies or thrillers. In our cinema theatres these movies would not be allowed for children, in Russia it is those same "children" who are playing the leading role.

1. Torture during military service in the Russian Federation

In this chapter the Soldiers' Mothers provide information on the origins of torture in Russian barracks and show the widespread occurrence of this phenomenon in the Russian Army. When this document uses the term 'torture', it is referring to the definition given in the UN's "Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading types of treatment and punishment".

1.1 History of torture in the Russian army

The system of "dedovshina" stems from the 1950s, when officers of the People's Commissary of Military Affairs were transferred out of the GULAG into the army. They introduced the rude habits of the GULAG system, notorious for the way in which the guards and the more 'experienced' prisoners violently maltreated and humiliated the other prisoners en masse. "Dedovshina" is a relic of this past system. The word comes from "Dedy" which means grandfathers. This is the name the older recruits receive after 12 months of service (with a year still to go).

"Dedovshina" is such an integral part of the Russian military system that the word can be found in dictionaries. Conversely, its very widespread nature enables military officials to claim that "dedovshina" is no more than "machismo", just the way that men behave when they are living together in a confined environment. But it is much more than just excusable machismo, and for this reason, "dedovshina" will simply be referred to as "torture" from now on in this report.

1.2 Torture as daily practice

Until a few years ago, new recruits were left in peace for the first few days in the barracks until the taking of the oath. Taking the oath was seen as a heathen ritual. From this moment on started the harassment, the beatings, or in short the torture by older recruits. Nowadays, the torture starts from the very first day in the barracks. The youngest soldiers have to fulfil all kinds of tasks: from innocent shoe cleaning during the day to brushing the toilet with a tooth brush at night, from buying cigarettes from your own money to stealing, from making tea to providing humiliating amusement for older soldiers during the night hours. Whether they complete the task or not, they are bullied and beaten by the older ones, the "Dedy". These beatings or harassment can take various forms, a myriad of methods for passing the time. Every year, actions of physical torture become more violent and end more and more often in casualties. Examples will be described below.

The torture happens during the whole first year of the military service. When the second year conscripts are demobilised and the first years become second years, this new batch of seniors simply takes over the role of their previous task-masters. They metamorphose from juniors and victims into seniors (often sergeants) and bullies. This caste-based system is widely spread in all military units and acts as a means of "preserving order" in the barracks. It generates criminal behaviour that does not stop once the boys go back home - when the conscript is released out of the army, he carries the violence back into his family and into society at large.

Torture by both low-ranking and high-ranking officers is also becoming more and more common. While before officers kept aside and did not take part in the torture, nowadays they do not hesitate to participate in the violent treatment of conscripted soldiers. This phenomenon makes it even more difficult for recruits to complain about maltreatment.

The boys who try to escape from mutilation or even death, are marked by the military system as deserters and are prosecuted after ten days, because they 'left the unit without authorisation'. Those who victimised other boys often go free, as the military disciplinary system defends its 'own'. The first investigations are always made by someone from the same unit. How can he judge objectively? And in the end, there is always the military court, which backs the violators and convicts the victims. The Soldiers' Mothers have numerous examples of this in their archive - the report will return to the topic of impunity in a later chapter - but we would also like to express our concern on the fact that the military command and the military offices of justice (the prosecutor's office, the courts) are covering up crimes against individuals both in the barracks and in Chechnya.

Officers are now more than just complicit in the torture: since the beginning of the Chechen war, officers have been determining the vicious methods used to subjugate their subordinates. The officers participate in the nightly beatings and they stimulate older conscripted soldiers to torture their fellow soldiers.

In order to turn the army into a remorseless machine that 'pacifies' any 'rebellious' region within the borders of the Russian Federation, or even beyond its borders (e.g. Tadzhikistan), the general staff and commanders must make mute slaves of their recruits. For this purpose the officers try to break the will of every recruit by humiliating him, by taking away his dignity. They use special, scientific methods for this. Since a lot of the recruits are physically weak or mentally ill, it is not so difficult to achieve this goal. The broken soldiers are ready to cross any psychological barrier, they are ready to kill everybody, if necessary with the help of drugs.

The army needs slaves for another purpose as well: as cheap labour. Soldiers work in all kinds of places, varying from farms and breweries, to dacha villages and nuclear power stations.

Another way to earn money is to trade people, as Russian officers did and still do in Chechnya. In 1998, for instance, officers who worked in units in Ingushetia, sent out recruits to fetch cigarettes or food, knowing all too well the strong chance that kidnappers would catch them and sell them to other people in the circuit. For this, the officer receives about $200. Sergey Leontyev was a recruit kidnapped in this way.

In this system of violence and humiliation there is no justice. Whenever a court (military or civil) reaches a verdict, it usually convicts the victims instead of the perpetrators. The judicial system never defends the victim. In the Russian Criminal Code there is not even a definition of the term 'torture'. This weighs very heavily on the psyche of the victims. The victims become users of violence themselves. Violence becomes standard practice for solving problems, not only in the army, but in the whole of society. This is a very dangerous development. The stability of the country can no longer be assured, and this could have serious consequences for the rest of Europe.

1.3 Types of torture

The types of torture treated in this report are as follows: physical and psychological violence, grey labour, people trade, extortion, starvation, poor living conditions, refusal to render medical aid, pits (in Chechnya), show trials, death and disappearances.

Below, the report provides real life testimonies to substantiate the above mentioned concerns. Original declarations are kept by the organisation as they provide a good picture of what Russian young men have to endure during their military service. Almost all individual case-histories include more than one type of torture. Mostly, we have simply decided which type of torture features most prominently in each case-history and then assigned each individual history to the appropriate chapter. In a couple of cases, where an individual case-history contains very lucid testimony about more than one type of torture, it has been inserted into two chapters with only relevant sections of the declaration included. Roughly five recent examples are given for each topic, although the list is endless.

2 Beatings by soldiers

Older conscript soldiers ("Dedy") with just some months left to serve, behave like the chiefs of the military unit. They boast about their bravery, show off their power, act like machos. They are brutal, act remorselessly and treat younger recruits cruelly. The group hysteria drives them to incredibly violent and gruesome deeds. Their actions are often beyond imagination of a sane person.

  • Dmitri Voropaev, Mil Unit 11820, Mga

On 9th June 2000 Dmitri Voropaev was conscripted into Military Unit 11820 stationed in Mga. A month after his military service began, 5 of his sergeants started drinking vodka to stave off night-time boredom. This illegal activity often brought out violent tendencies in Sergeants Kharkov and Trofimov. They would rouse the sleeping junior conscripts and then beat them up, wrapping a towel around their hands to soak up the blood while they thrashed at a boy's face, chest, shoulders and backside.

Dmitri simply could not bear the terror and the humiliation, these merciless beatings, and he decided to desert his unit. On the way home, in the town of Chudovo, he was captured by the militsia and taken back to his unit. There, he spent a night in the detention cell before an interview with the Head of Staff. He was given a chance to explain himself and he was given a delayed transfer to another unit, but only after he had taken his official military oath. Luckily for Dmitri, the sergeants stopped pestering him during his agonising wait for 23rd July, the date of this oath-swearing. Perhaps the head of staff had said something.

For the next 3 months, Dmitri served with a variety of other units around Russia. On 28th October 2000, he was dispatched to a vehicle platoon. Everything was fine to begin with but then, yet again, the problems started. Senior conscripts, "Dedy", Zubrov, Matviev and Malchichin began to drink various spirits at night. On at least 3 occasions, they sought out the juniors, woke up them up and then beat them up. On a separate occasion, "Ded" Bikhtimirov came back from home release with food and money, which he then used to purchase a large quantity of vodka. At 2am, Bikhtimirov and the others woke up Dmitri, as well as junior conscripts Zatziev and Posenko, and ordered them to go to the toilets. They hit them again and again, apparently as punishment for not folding their uniform correctly. Tellingly, in his personal declaration, Dmitri writes, "I think that one example (of my beatings) is enough. I do not want to remember everything else".

On 13th December 2000, Dmitri fled again. Three days later, he was detained in Moscow and taken back to his unit. As before, he was put in a cell over-night. In the morning, Lieutenant Kotchkin sent for him and ordered him to undress down to his trousers. He forced Dmitri to balance with his knees on a chair. He then used his leather belt to whip Dmitri viciously on his back, legs and the soles of his feet. Only after this, did Lieu. Kotchkin inform Dmitri that his mother had come to talk to him.

  • Konstantin Mikhailov, Mil. Unit 62295, Ivanovo.

Konstantin Mikhailov was drafted into the army on 6th December 1999 and sent to Military Unit 62295 stationed in the town of Ivanovo. Soon after his arrival in the unit, Konstantin went to the doctor with pains in his stomach. They intended to send him to hospital for a consultation on the suspicion of a stomach ulcer but Kostya was instead dispatched for training. There he underwent systematic thrashings by the "dembeli" ("demobees" or military servicemen, who have 100 days or less left until their demobilisation) and his contused sergeant-major. The sergeant-major cruelly beat him up, practically every day, on this particular day in the presence of the company commander.

On 27th March 2000 Kostya came home to beg his family for asylum. From the declaration by Kostya's mother: "On his face and his leg were signs of battery. After going to the traumatologist, he was sent on to the gnatho-facial surgeon with the diagnosis: fracture of the right lower jaw, bruises to the soft tissue of the face and of the left shin".

  • Vyachyeslav Kisyelyev, Mil. Unit 01375 (Railway Forces)

Vyachyeslav Kisyelyev was drafted into Military Unit 01375 of the Railway Forces on 16th November 1999. From Slava's declaration: "I, Vyachyeslav Kisyelyev ran away from military unit 01375 because I could not bear the thrashings and humiliation any longer..."

Slava was beaten up by his colleagues, hit with a stool. When Slava approached the "Soldiers' Mothers of St Petersburg" his nose was broken, all of his face and hands were covered with gashes. He was sent to the military-medical commission in the military hospital, where he was declared fit for military service despite his injuries and delivered to the very unit where his offenders were. At present he is still in his military unit.

  • Dobran Satibaldiev, Mil. Unit 67101, Kamenka

When the summons came for 18-year-old Dobran Satibaldiev to join Military Unit 67101 on 25th May 2000, he was lying in hospital with a heavy cough, a dislocated left wrist, a light inflammation and migraines. These varied complaints reflect the appalling ill-health that had dogged Dobran since early childhood - bronchitis, hepatitis, tonsillitis, jaundice, inflammations and recurring head-aches after severe trauma to the head. His family situation had also been difficult: Dobran's father was an alcoholic and he had frequently argued with his mother. Furthermore, he had attempted to commit suicide aged just 17.

Despite such obvious unsuitability, Dobran was not given an exemption and it was just a matter of time before the harsh conditions of military life caught up with him. He fell ill with bronchitis and was admitted to military hospital, only to be discharged swiftly after. His situation became unbearable a few months later when older conscripts began to steal his food in the canteen, to mock and humiliate him, to beat him up. One night he was attacked with a stool and knocked on the head, bringing on the return of his childhood headaches.

Dobran and a fellow conscript, Alexei Shilkin, could not bear these ritual humiliations any longer and decided to flee from their military service together. Their units were stationed in Kamenka, near the border with Finland and their original plan was to flee from Russia altogether. Dobran and Alexei came across a Russian man who informed that it was pointless to even try. Their next idea was to travel home but neither had any documents or money, so it was a case of walking home, sleeping in lofts and cellars, slowly starving to death. By the time they had arrived in St Petersburg, Dobran had reached such a point of depression that he tried to hang himself in one of these cellars. When a psychiatrist saw him some 13 days later, the strangulation marks were still visible and so it is lucky that a janitor came upon the two boys and contacted the Soldiers' Mothers of St Petersburg.

Dobran has since been exempted from military service on psychological grounds.

  • Alexei Shilkin, Mil. Unit 67661, Kamenka

On 25th May 2000, Alexei Shilkin received the summons to serve in unit 67661, stationed in Kamenka, near the border with Finland. Having been brought up on tales of how valiantly his grandfather had fought during both the Great Patriotic War and the Russo-Japanese War, Alexei was happy to be conscripted and proud of the opportunity to serve his country. He had found it difficult to maintain friendships, although he had a good relationship with his parents and grandparents. He used to fly into rages sporadically, suddenly and without warning, arguing most frequently with his sisters. Alexei was aware of his problems but found it hard to talk about his fears, manifested in nightmares and bouts of frenzied sleep-talking. Aged 16, he tried to commit suicide after an argument with one of his sisters. About a year later, he tried again, this time on an overhanging light fixture.

However keen Alexei may have been to serve, it is clear from his personal history that he was totally unsuited to the life of a Russian conscript. He fell ill immediately after he joined his unit but was soon dispatched back by the military doctors. He could not march in time or remember the words and tunes of the marching songs. Often, he did not even comprehend the commands. For these reasons, he was continually picked on by his sergeant and by other senior soldiers, who saw him as an easy target. On one occasion, Alexei's sergeant hit him on the head with the leg of a stool. He lost consciousness and when he came round, his head was aching and bleeding. He asked if he could go to his quarters to lie down but was explicitly forbidden to do so.

In his declaration, Alexei described how he was driven to despair and desperation, how his nerves simply could not bear the taunting and beating any longer. With a fellow conscript, Dobran Satibaldiev, also stationed at Kamenka, Alexei decided to flee from his unit. Both boys decided to return home. The problem was they had no documents or money so all they could do was walk, sleeping in attics and cellars and eating what scraps they could find. They ended up in St Petersburg where they seem to have made a suicide pact, both trying to hang themselves. Luckily, they were discovered by a janitor before it was too late.

This janitor helped Alexei to return home, where he explained everything to his parents. They sent him to a psychiatric clinic and his mother then wrote to the Soldiers Mothers of St Petersburg for help with the medication costs. They already knew of his situation through Dobran, who they had also been advising. In order to be released, he needed to receive an exemption from a military hospital and so Alexei rejoined the army and was reassigned to a different military unit in Pushkin. He was transferred to hospital and early in 2001, he was decommissioned. His psychiatric reports describe how he was he was suffering from migraines, frequent faint moments, irritability, heavy sweating, heightened fatigue and obsessive thoughts. These consultations determined that he was highly depressed and emotionally unstable but at least now, Alexei is finally receiving the counselling he needs.

3 Beatings by the officers

While in the recent past, officers did not usually (there were exceptions) get involved in the torture activities, nowadays it has become normal practice in a growing number of military units that officers join the "dedy" in their beatings and cruel "games", that they use physical violence as a means to punish their subordinates, or that they take pleasure in trying out new kinds of torture methods on their soldiers. This phenomenon grew exponentially after the start of the second war in Chechnya. The conditions in Chechnya and in the military units in the surrounding territories have become completely inhumane for all who are employed there. The local population, be it Chechen, Russian or of a different ethnic background, is treated as beasts. The Russian forces show no respect whatsoever towards human beings. This effects the way servicemen treat each other in the barracks as well. The mutual relations between soldiers and officers have deteriorated to such an extent that the use of violence has become the normal way to treat people, civilian or military. Any misunderstanding is answered with violent actions, the smallest conflict is resolved by means of cruel deeds. Higher military staff cannot control this evolution. In fact, the inhumane treatment of civilians in Chechnya was ordered from higher ranks, from the General Staff and the President in Moscow.

The harsh conditions of Chechnya have begun to reflect themselves in the military units, to where soldiers and officers return after their active deployment. The conscript soldiers return home after their service completely psychologically disturbed, without exception traumatised. No help may be expected from the authorities to rehabilitate these people.

The officers, however, stay in the units. They can continue to appease their trauma, to work out their frustrations and fears on new recruits. In the following examples, you may read about what officers, professionals who are responsible for the lives of their subordinates and for the efficient functioning of their troops, may do without any form of punishment or juridical conviction.

  • Sergei Bolshakov, Mil. Unit 45935, Saint Petersburg

Sergei Bolshakov (M/U 45935) wrote: "I, Sergei Bolshakov, was conscripted by the Kalinin district Military Commissariat of St Petersburg to serve in Military Unit 45935. My service was fine while I was in the training subdivision. I was transferred to the BPTP (Battalion for the Provision of the Training Process) on 27th November 2000 to work as a medical mechanic-orderly.

Large conflicts with the officers didn't happen until 5th March (2001), when they lodged the suit (against us). Until the moment when they presented the suit, they had tried to get me to write a confession for full culpability. At first, Captain Golod led out Artem Klimov[2] to the boiler room, where our instruments are kept, from there I heard the screams, then the captain took me there. The captain insulted, degraded and threatened me, since his threats had no effect, he inflicted several blows on my head with his fist, then snatched a metal piece of pipe and began to strike pell-mell at the trunk of my body. Then Klimov and I were taken to the educational department. There we were interrogated separately. At first Captain Golod and Captain Sizov simply psychologically threatened us but this didn't work out well then Captain Golod decided to employ force but Captain Sizov stopped him, having said that he didn't need bruises.

After the examination they locked me in the weaponry room of the 5th Battery and they fastened me to the grating with handcuffs. How long I sat there, I don't know. Then they took me to HQ.

As the office of the Rear Officer was occupied, they took me into Captain Golod's office where he himself actually was. He began to threaten but as his threats did not make any impression on me, he started to strike me erratically with his fists, then he seized a shelf and began to hit it until it broke, during which time he warned that if I did not write a confession for full culpability, things would be worse for me.

After this he ushered me into the commandant's office with kicks from behind. I spent the night in the barracks, attached to the bed with handcuffs. From this day forth Captain Golod sent constant threats of reprisal to my address and to Klimov's parents. On the 9th March when me and Klimov were cleaning the sewage hatch, Captain Golod came to us. He began to degrade us in every way, then something enraged him and he cannoned into Klimov, caught him and began to drown him in the shit, if Senior Ensign Kuliev hadn't come, maybe he would have finished it off. Captain Golod also incited and bribed soldiers and sergeants to insult, degrade and beat up Klimov and me - not only those from the 5th Battery, but also those from the training batteries. But practically nothing came out of this".

  • Group X, Mil. Unit 58512

The Soldiers' Mothers received a letter from a group of recruits from M/U 58512 (Chechnya) on 17th February 2001:

"Hello, we are a small group of soldiers writing to you from the Chechen Republic. We are stationed in Khankala, in the 50th battalion of RKhBZ. We went to Chechnya of our own free will. Having arrived here we found out that we hadn't ended up in your average unit - amongst the soldiers, it's called the concentration camp. Having served three months in the battalion, we lost a sub-machine gun. The Head of Staff Major Polyakov was utterly furious, as was Major Boronin and Lieutenant Colonel Limar. They took 3 soldiers to the bathhouse and beat them up until they lost consciousness. Then the torture began. Major Polyakov and Major Boronin connected electric wires to everyone, wherever they wanted, but even after this they did not receive an answer. Then Lieu Colonel Limar loaded up a sub-machine gun and pointed it at the head of the soldier who had lost his weapon. He fell to his knees in fear and rapidly began to beg for forgiveness...

Three days passed. The accused were not allowed to sleep. They were released on the fourth day. The soldiers stopped worrying that they would be beaten up. You see the affair had been handed over to the prosecutor's office but these three Hitlers, as they are called here, did not let go. They took these three soldiers to a tent and Major Polyakov began to sear their hands against a white-hot stove. Then they took them to a combat-car, took off their belts and then beat them up. When the soldiers were set loose and came to the tent, we took a look at their backs. They were like meat cutlets - dark blue and bloody... And the battalion commander will arrive soon and in general he is a terrible person. Lieu. Colonel Limar has already said that there will be casualties in the platoon anyway, someone won't make it through. And waving his hand told us that it's a load of tripe and onions - a man here is exchangeable, like a packet of cigarettes, saying, we'll give out a posthumous medal for his bravery and consider that he was killed in action, and that's all... We are awaiting help. Military unit 58512."

  • Sergei Smirnov, Mil. Unit 22494 and 96236

Sergei Smirnov was conscripted by the Moscow Regional Military Commissariat on 10th November 1999 into Military Unit 22494, later he was transferred to military unit 96236 in the Jewish Autonomous Region. There, in one of the unit bathhouses, a lieutenant saw that Sergei's arms, from his elbows to his shoulders, were beaten in - totally black and blue. He sent him to military hospital where he stayed for about a month. On 18th November 2000, Sergei was sent to Shali, in Chechnya. There, a drunken officer bullied Sergei and his fellow conscripts. At night, he would force them to sing and if they did not sing then he kicked them in the ribs, beat their backs with a belt-buckle, with trowels and bricks. Defending his dignity, life and health, Sergei left his unit.

He walked for 2 days and nights. At that time he was already ill with a high fever. In the mountains, he ran into a herdsman, a Chechen, who ordered him to sit tight till evening. In the evening he led Sergei home and let him stay the night and in the morning he took Sergei to the hospital where they gave him medicine. Then this Chechen man took Sergei to the soldiers of the SOBR and he was treated for 4 days against pneumonia and lice. Then Sergei was transported to Mozdok. He stayed with local inhabitants who rang Sergei's mother. Sergei returned home with his mother. He had an examination where it was established that his illnesses are obstacles to the continuation of his military service. Sergei was sent to the Military Medical Commissary, which declared him fit to serve. At the moment Sergei is appealing against this decision.

  • Denis Dmitryuk, Mil. Unit 21744 and 01860, Mozdok

Denis Dmitryuk was drafted into Medical Training Unit 21744 in the Leningrad region. After taking his military oath, he was given temporary releases with the proviso that he brought back money for the sergeants. When he did not bring any back, he was beaten up and insulted in every possible way. They forced him to wear a gas-mask at night and to do physical exercise until he collapsed. Denis ran away but he was soon caught. Instead of trying to resolve the situation, Denis' commanding officer simply refused to believe him and had him detained in the guardroom for 15 days. Then, right up until "allocation day", Denis was put in a cold, pitch-black cellar and kept in handcuffs.

In Military Unit 01860, the unit to which Denis was transferred after his training unit, he was systematically beaten up by the senior conscripts. On 5th December 1998 Denis had his appendix removed. After returning to the military unit, he was not given time-off to convalesce and he was forced to do all the exercises and tasks with a full load. The beating and taunting continued. On 23rd December 1998 he was forced to leave the unit and roamed around, unsure where to head. In Botaisk he went to the militsia and then to the commandant with a request for transfer to another unit. He was detained in the guardroom for 10 days and then sent again to Mozdok. On the way Denis managed to get out of the train. A local lady sheltered him and allowed him to phone home. Having returned home, he was examined by a doctor and finally decommissioned on account of his health.

  • Igor Suzi, Mil. Unit 6717

On 22nd September 1999, Igor was conscripted into Military Unit 6717, stationed in the barracks on Millionaya street in the very centre of St Petersburg. From Igor's declaration: "In the night from 9th to 10th June (2000) I was sent home (illegally) by Lance-Corporal Mozgovoi and Ensign Ivanov. In the morning when I came back Lance-Corporal Mozgovoi beat me up as he considered that I was drunk. And that's why I ran away from the unit to a friend but they came there and persuaded me to return to the unit. Starting from 10th June 2000 for 2 days they beat me up and put me in hand-cuffs, and Captain Yuzko beat me too".

  • Konstantin Chermeninov, Mil. Unit 39985

From earliest child-hood, Konstantin frequently fell ill with coughs, colds and tonsillitis. Aged 11, he had fallen from the third floor of his apartment block. As a result of this, he received a severe trauma to the head and lost consciousness for a long time, needing to convalesce for an extended period after the event. Just a year later, he received another brain-scull trauma when a gibe from a crane fell down on him. From this time onwards, Konstantin often felt exhausted. He was unable to concentrate and had frequent migraines. This in turn affected his performance in school.

Konstantin was drafted into Military Unit 39985 of the Rocket Troops, based in Toksovo, on 22nd May 1998, despite his obviously halted mental development. From his declaration: "I, Private Chermeninov, was on detail in the barracks check-point, when Captain Shinun drove up. I ran to open the door for him and I had forgotten to put on my belt as I had already been to supper. He got out of the car, took me into the check-point room and began to hit me, turned over the bedside table and declared 3 days detention as he couldn't give me any more and drove away. On several occasions he declared days of detention for dirty boots, said that I had to stand in the guard-room cell. Once I was on detail and fell asleep at the table. Captain Shinun came up to the table, beat me and took me off detail. He forced other soldiers to hem his collar lining. All our company wrote a report about him several times but it was all useless. All the time he forced me to clean the sewage pipes in the park, all the time he put me on the detail for regimental duties. (...) When I came back from military hospital, he began to persecute me, to abuse me, saying that it wouldn't be sweet for me in the guard-room after hospital."

  • Dmitri Ivanov, Mil. Unit 53609

Dmitri Ivanov (M/U 53609, Kovrov) mentions in his declaration of 22nd November 2000: "After receiving the conscription notice, I presented various documents to the Conscription Commission. These consisted of accounts of severe head trauma which I received on the eve of the conscription, the findings of a psychiatrist and an excerpt from the medical history of my alcoholism. Nevertheless, the Conscription Commission gave me category "A" fitness. During the time of my conscription, my mother became a grade 2 invalid and therefore, my conscription was, again, illegal. In military unit 53609, I was subjected to moral and physical degradation, especially from Junior Sergeant Krylov. I turned to the division psychologist. In a letter to him, I asked for help. On 26th August 2000, Junior Sergeant Krylov violently forced me to go with him to the weapon store. There he pulled the catch of a sub-machine gun across my chest. I experienced an unexpected flash of rage and unable to control myself, I struck the sergeant. The next day, they sent me to the division psychologist, who gave me a warrant for an examination in the regional psychiatric hospital. They did not send me to this examination. On 1st September 2000, an inquiry arrived about my transfer to the Leningrad Region due to family circumstances. However, they did not actualise the transfer. I was extremely worried about my mother, knowing that she needed my help as she is an invalid and she had no-one to look after her. These worries traumatised me. I became nervy and irritable. My psychological condition got much worse. On 24th October 2000, they transferred me to another regiment in military unit 73864, also in Kovrov.

4 Grey labour

Grey labour or slave labour is forcing people to work against their own will, without compensations or wages, often in unbearable conditions. In the Russian army, conscript soldiers are employed in all kind of factories or agricultural companies, in private houses or datcha's, even in atomic power stations (Sosnovyj Bor - see Non-governmental presentation, September 1999). For this work, the soldiers do not receive a penny but the officer gets paid for the offered services. Here are a few examples.
  • Maxim Furchak, Mil. Unit 03213

Maxim Furchak served in military unit 03213, Gorskaya, when he received a strange order. From his declaration: "In September 2000, I, Junior Sergeant Furchak, was sent to work in the equestrian-sports club "Komarovo" with four of my subordinates: another junior sergeant, Private Andreyev, Private Chumachenko, Private Shaligin. We knocked down a building...."

  • Denis Chinakayev, Mil. Unit 29483

The mother of Denis Chinakayev (M/U 29483, Vladikavkaz) writes: "For a long time after my son was drafted into the army, I had no idea where he was stationed. The military commission gave me information which, in actual fact, was untrue. When I went to visit my son, what I saw is difficult to describe. My son had lost 16 kg of weight during 2 and a half months. He had the look of a madman. At home he eats all the day and is never full up. His legs are covered with putrefying ulcers...the soldiers sleep on bare mattresses without sheets or pillowcases, all bitten by bed-lice. They wanted to sell my son for work elsewhere two times but he refused. For this he was beaten up. Local inhabitants walk through the barracks freely, and they choose the soldiers they need. I saw this with my own eyes".

  • Yevgeni Makarov, Mil. Unit 06533

Yevgeni Makarov (M/U 06533, Kosterevo) was in the military hospital in Vladimir, where his dilating varicose veins were being operated on, when he was taken away to work on the garden allotment of one of the medical workers. During this work, his post-operative stitches split open.

Georgij X[3], Mil. Unit 25756

Georgij gave our organisation documents which bear witness to the fact that, in 1999, the command of military unit 25756, stationed in Pushkin, used the soldiers for agricultural work and received money and goods-in-trade for this work. The soldiers themselves were not paid.

  • Dmitri Ivanov, Mil. Unit 53609

Dmitri Ivanov (M/U 53609, Kovrov) mentions in his declaration of 22nd November 2000: "In military unit 53609, I was subjected to moral and physical degradation, especially from Junior Sergeant Krylov. On 26th August 2000, Junior Sergeant Krylov violently forced me to go with him to the weapon store. There he pulled the catch of a sub-machine gun across my chest. I experienced an unexpected flash of rage and unable to control myself, I struck the sergeant. The next day, they sent me to the division psychologist, who gave me a warrant for an examination in the regional psychiatric hospital (the warrant is recorded in my medical notes). They did not send me to this examination. On 1st September 2000, an inquiry arrived about my transfer to the Leningrad Region due to family circumstances. However, they did not actualise the transfer. I was extremely worried about my mother, knowing that she needed my help as she is an invalid and she had no-one to look after her. On 24th October 2000, they transferred me to another regiment in military unit 73864, also in Kovrov. On my arrival in the new regiment I was drafted to an HQ work-team. There I worked 6 days a week, from morning to night, and sometimes also at nights and on Sundays. I worked in the commandants' flats and did repairs. For this work, they gave me a packet of cigarettes a day".

  • Oleg Stafeyev, Mil. Unit 29483

Oleg Stafeyev served in military unit 29483 in Vladikavkaz. In the unit the soldiers were treated like slaves: they were sent to work for 48 hours non-stop, during which time they were often not fed. The sergeants and senior conscripts beat the junior soldiers. In the barracks, it was cold and there were bed-bugs, cockroaches, lice.

From Oleg's letters: "It's boiling here, and they chase us to the firing-range - it is 8 kilometres from the unit. It is not enough that you go 8 km there and 8 km back in such heat. There you run until someone faints. Then they stop us for a fag-break. And then you run more, until someone falls down. There, on the field, on 22nd July, right in front of our eyes, they killed a young man. They sent him for cigarettes but he did not have any money to buy them. When he returned to the range, a sergeant hit him on the chest near his heart. After literally a couple of minutes he died."

"From here there is only one way out - that's Chechnya. Almost no-one wants to go there, but they don't ask us. They beat us until we sign the contract. One young man, just the same as me, was beaten to death. But they wrote to his parents that their son had accidentally stepped on an electric cable and died".

After one and a half months service, Oleg was dispatched to the mountains (40km from the border with Chechnya) as a guard: "Our responsibilities consisted of the following. If some-one passed by our territory during the daytime, you shout: "Stop!" If the "body" continued to move, then you shoot into the air. If it did not obey you for a second time, you were allowed to shoot at their legs. But, if some-one is out at night, you shoot without investigating, without warning. Even, if there is the smallest murmur somewhere in the bushes. You shoot, whoever it might be. They said not to be pity the locals."

There, in the mountains, the sergeants treated the soldiers in a horrific manner. Oleg ran away and wandered in the mountains until he stumbled upon a Chechen herdsman. He warmed Oleg up, fed him and took him to the policemen from the Rapid Reaction Division. They took him to a local inhabitant in the town, who called up Oleg's mother. She came and took him away.

5 People trade

Another way for officers to earn some extra money is by selling their recruits. The buyers can be company owners, Mafia networks or local inhabitants (especially in the Caucasus region). Officers feel no responsibility for those they sell as slaves, it's just a way of making money.
  • Denis Chinakayev, Mil. Unit 29483

The mother of Denis Chinakayev (M/U 29483, Vladikavkaz) writes: "For a long time after my son was drafted into the army, I had no idea where he was stationed. The military commission gave me information which, in actual fact, was untrue." After a while she found out that he was sent to the Caucasus.

"When I went to visit my son, what I saw is difficult to describe. (...) They wanted to sell my son for work elsewhere two times but he refused. For this he was beaten up. Local inhabitants walk through the barracks freely, and they choose the soldiers they need. I saw this with my own eyes".

  • Alexander Pozdeyev, Mil. Unit 34605, Volgograd

He was drafted into military unit 34605, stationed in Volgograd. The company commander Plotitsin sold him for 2 months (from 7th March to the end of May 2000) to work at 85a Dvinsky Street. Then he was sold again for another job in Volgograd. Ensign Sergeyev would come to the "proprietors" to receive money for Alex's work. Alex ran back home to St Petersburg when he overheard a conversation about selling him to Chechnya. He went to the prosecutor's office in Shpalerny to see investigator Savkin who then ordered him to be transferred to military unit 25756, stationed in Pushkin. In that unit, he was beaten up and on 21st June 2000, he needed to visit a trauma clinic for the injuries he had sustained.

An extract from a letter sent to Alex, dated 2nd August 2000, written by V.A. Yelgunov, Captain of Justice and assistant to the military prosecutor of the Volgograd garrison:

"...On the basis of point 2, article 5 of the Criminal Process Codex of the Russian Federation, that is, in connection with the absence of consistent misdemeanour in your behaviour, I am rejecting the initiation of criminal proceedings against you for your voluntary desertion from military unit 34605.

At the same time, on the basis of point 1, article 5 of the Criminal Process Codex of the Russian Federation, that is, due to the absence of the fact of a crime, I am notifying you that I am rejecting the initiation of criminal proceedings against the serving officers of military unit 34605 for their employment of unprescribed measures of influence upon you".

In effect, this letter states that Alex's personal testimony is not sufficient for criminal proceedings to be brought against the officers who leased him out for unpaid private work.

An extract from a letter sent to Alex's mother by Full Colonel Rybakov, the commander of military unit 34605, dated 7th November 2000:

"I am presently communicating to you that your son, A. S. Pozdeyev, voluntarily deserted from his unit on 24th August 2000 and until the present moment, is still absent. Your son has committed a military crime and on the given facts, I am instigating criminal proceedings. If you are not indifferent to the fate of your son, I ask you to facilitate his return to the unit or communicate where he is living or continuing his military service".

This letter shows that the commander was totally misinformed about the date of Alex's desertion: by 24th August 2000, the date of Alex's supposed desertion from Volgograd, he had already been serving at the military unit in Pushkin for over 2 months. Furthermore, it ignores the military prosecutor's decision, determined some 3 months earlier.

  • Artem Irkhin, Mil. Unit 66431, Vladikavkaz

From his mother's declaration:

"In June 1999, Artem was sent to military unit 66431, stationed in Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia. On his arrival in the military unit, it turned out that a medical instructor in the medical unit was not needed and they officially registered him as a rifleman-orderly (with vision at -5 in both eyes).

In military unit 66431 the soldiers were beaten and tormented. They were poorly fed. Bathed - once every 2 weeks. Not given any soap. In order to receive a new uniform, he was asked to pay 80 roubles. I had to send him the money as his old uniform had worn out. They did not give money to the soldiers, although they regularly signed for it.

In August, Artem was sent to the region of war operations and began to fight. For several days they were not fed, they drank water out of puddles. There was no medical help.

In December, Artem was sitting near the barracks of his military unit. A man in civilian clothes approached him (local inhabitants walked perfectly peacefully and freely through the territory of his military unit). He suggested to Artem that he could sew maize and promised him 300 roubles. Artem agreed, as he had not received his monthly wage. They took him through the firing range. A car approached, he got in, then they put a pistol to his head and told him not to jerk while they blindfolded him. They took him to some village, imprisoned him in a basement. They kicked and punched him in the chest. Twice a day, they gave him water and bread. After one and a half months, he and four other boys were put in a car at night and taken into Nalchik, where they were handed over to the "Peace Mission". I did not know anything about my son. The commander of the unit did not answer my inquiries. On 13th January 2001, I saw my son on the news, while he was being let out of captivity. Artem was decommissioned on account of his health".

  • Vladimir Nikanorov, Mil. Unit 34605, Volgograd

From his mother's testament:

"In the unit they were sold to the Dagestanis for 30 roubles a day. They worked constantly for them, they weren't fed, they were taunted. They were afraid to return to the unit as there had already been an occasion there when they beat up and broke the fingers of lads who didn't want to work for the Dagestanis. Therefore Vladimir left his unit".

6 Extortion

As mentioned above, older conscript soldiers with just some months left to serve, behave like the chiefs of the military unit. They want to make their final months "unforgettable", they want to "enjoy" themselves. At any cost. One way to achieve this is to let younger recruits serve you. The "dedy" ask them to make tea after midnight, to amuse them with humiliating and painful games, or they just beat up a couple of frightened recruits for the "fun" of it. They send them out to buy vodka and cigarettes, they extort food, clothes, money, any little luxury from the younger recruits. If the boys do not have anything to hand over then they are sent out to beg, especially if the units are stationed in the big cities like Moscow and St Petersburg.

Officers are guilty of the same crime. Conscript soldiers are slaves to them, not humans. One can do with a slave whatever one wants.

  • Dmitri Makhiev, Mil. Unit 01375, Mga

Dmitri was taken by force from his home to the military barracks at Mga, near St Petersburg. From the first day of his enforced military service, he was exposed to blackmail and extortion for cigarettes and money. He grew accustomed to such demands and at first, did not criticise the military to his mother. Dmitri would frequently come home on temporary discharge, sometimes alone and sometimes with other soldiers, to get hold of cigarettes. After a time, Dmitri's mother began to notice that he was behaving strangely. He seemed tense and irritable, a worried expression on his face. A group of senior conscripts were now forcing him to bring back his own civilian clothes and drugs, instead of just cigarettes and money. They were acting with the frequently explicit agreement of an officer, Full Lieutenant Mednikovi, who issued many of the temporary discharges for Dmitri.

Dmitri had been singled out because his home was in St Petersburg. The senior conscripts assumed that he would know where to find the drug-dealers because he was familiar with the local area. On the first occasion, Dmitri brought back clothes but was unable to get hold of any drugs. Four senior conscripts - Dmitri Sergiev, Dmitri Balasdin, and the brothers Ruslan and Akai Ibrashmov - beat him up for his failure. The second time he was also unsuccessful and was beaten up again. The third time, on 9th January 2001, Dmitri came home and thrashed around the flat, proclaiming to his mother "I cannot go back. If I do, the most you could hope for is to find me in hospital. That's the most we can hope for". His mother described how he looked totally insane, his nerves failing, how he was shaking through panic and fear. Both mother and son knew that it would be pointless to ask the commanding officer for help; the other soldiers would have just kept silent through fear.

Soldiers from his unit began to search for him. In the end, he was discovered by Lieutenant Stepanov at a friend's house. Stepanov viciously attacked him, kicking at his head as he lay on the floor. He put handcuffs on Dmitri and instead of returning immediately to the Mga barracks, he drove through the region of Peterhof and left Dmitri in some kind of building, handcuffed to a radiator beneath a staircase. Having received such a severe trauma to the head, Dmitri only came to consciousness in the morning. His head was spinning and gory as blood had pored out of his mouth and ears. He could only vaguely remember why he was in this strange building.

Lieutenant Stepanov came to pick him up later in the morning and put him in his own car, handcuffed to some kind of handle. He started to travel around town, doing various chores. He totally ignored Dmitri's critical medical condition. After midday, Stepanov went home to make a phone call, leaving Dmitri in the car. At this point, Dmitri started to panic again about what they would do to him back at the barracks. His highly distraught condition somehow gave him the strength to wriggle out of his handcuffs and make his way to a clinic, where he was seen by a neurologist.

Since that time, Dmitri has been suffering from pains in the head, loss of appetite and fainting fits. No criminal proceedings have been brought against Lieutenant Stepanov.

  • Ruslan Takhirov, Mil. Unit 67616, Kamenka

Ruslan was drafted into the army on 21st June 1999. From his declaration: "The commander of the unit extorted fruit for his pregnant wife and car-parts". As a result of the endless levies, Ruslan was forced to leave his unit. The commander began to demand money from Ruslan's family, threatening to instigate criminal proceedings against him. The family did not pay this money. Then on 9th November 2000, on the commission of the unit commander, soldiers beat up Ruslan. After this he did not receive due treatment in his military unit and they refused to hospitalise him. Ruslan appealed to the Prosecutor's Office and was dispatched to military hospital.

  • Vitali Arbuzov, Mozhaisky Military Academy

Vitali was conscripted into the Mozhaisky Space Technology Military Academy on 24th December 1999. From his mother's declaration: "In the company there began the extortion of money, cigarettes, food products, etc. In May (2000), before their release from the army, the senior conscripts demanded 500 roubles from Vitali. I went to the command. But the command didn't take any measures. And they started to take revenge on my son: they degraded, insulted and threatened him".

After a medical examination Vitali was decommissioned on account of his health in winter 2000.

  • Mikhail Danilov, Mil. Unit 34605, Volgograd

Mikhail was recruited into the army on 26th June 2000 and was first assigned to a training unit in the Moscow region. From the first week of his service, he frequently fell ill with pneumonia, coughs and colds. Furthermore, he repeatedly underwent systematic beating and bullying by his sergeants, the commanders of the divisions. In the beatings he was predominantly hit on the head with hands, legs and hard objects. Under the threat of physical reprisals Mikhail was forbidden to turn to the higher command for help.

After this stint in the military training unit, Danilov was sent on to Military Unit 34605, stationed in Volgograd in the Northern Caucasus. He arrived there on 18th November 2000 and from the first day he became a victim of those same "unsanctioned attitudes" which he had experienced in the training unit. The senior conscripted soldiers and the conscripted sergeants tried to force him to commit crimes: theft and unauthorised desertions from the unit. Mikhail continually refused to steal money, tobacco and regimentals from his comrades, as well as to leave the unit to buy vodka, cigarettes and food for the senior soldiers but in doing so, he set these senior conscripts against himself.

He immediately began to be bullied and beaten up. As a rule, these beatings were done by a group and organised by the commander of his division, Junior Sergeant Ivan Mishenko. They were daily events. Mikhail would be hit predominantly on the head and the shins but also on the back, hands, liver, kidneys, stomach and chest. The older soldiers used their belt-buckles, stools, the metal hoops from their bed-frames, as well as their hands and feet.

On 20th November 2000 Mikhail and 3 other junior conscripts were roused from their beds at about 1am by 4 "demobees" (conscripts who only have 100 days or less until their demobilisation). These "demobees" had all been promoted to sergeants and one of them, Ovtsinov, is now serving as the Deputy Commander of Mikhail's platoon). The sergeants told the boys to collect together and hand over 100 roubles. Mikhail and his friends got together all their spare money but it only came to 20 roubles. As the sergeants' desires had not been satisfied, they forced one of these younger soldiers to leave the barracks without official permission, so as to buy them vodka. While awaiting his return, Ovtsinov and his colleagues avenged themselves on Mikhail and the other 2 junior conscripts by attacking them with stools. One of Mikhail's friends lost consciousness and that left 2 demobees to each junior conscript. The attackers split up into pairs - one held up the victim while the other hit him with the stool on his head and other parts of his body. When the soldier who had been sent for vodka returned, Mikhail and the others were left on the floor while the sergeants went off to get drunk. The beaten soldiers lay on the floor for a long time, unable even to crawl to their beds. Mikhail felt giddy and he vomited. In the morning he was in chronic pain but Junior Sergeant Mishenko, the commander of his division, sharply refused to let him have medical attention.

During his lunch break on 26th November 2000 Mikhail was approached by Junior Sergeant Mishenko. With a stream of unprintable expletives and threats, the sergeant demanded that Mikhail bring his military duffel-coat to him by supper-time. Mishenko was fully aware that the only way Mikhail could get hold of a "superfluous" duffel-coat would be to steal one either from the store or from his comrades. Mikhail declared that he was not prepared to break the law. After supper Mishenko came to him again and threatened him with physical reprisals, openly suggesting that Mikhail would "regret this" after the evening sign-off. Mishenko obviously made a prior arrangement with 2 conscripted soldiers (Sergei Trishin and another whose nickname was only ever heard - "Ears") because on that same day, after the sign-off, Mishenko, Trishin and Ears came into Mikhail's dormitory and knocked his sleeping body from off his bunk. Mikhail woke up, got to his feet and tried to protect himself but he was swiftly knocked back to the floor with punches to his face, ribs, liver, kidneys, spleen. This uninterrupted thrashing went on for between 15 and 20 minutes, after which point the attackers dispersed, threatening more reprisals if Mikhail did not get hold of a duffel-coat in the next few days. After this, Mikhail lay on the cold floor for another 5 minutes, aching with pains all over his body. When he got up, his head was spinning, his eyes were cloudy, he was wrenching and he had no co-ordination.

The constant thrashings that Mikhail was receiving led his health to frequently break down. He started to have migraines and nose-bleeds, his speech became disjointed and his memory became more and more shaky. He ended up in the sanitary room as a result of these thrashings and he developed haematomes (effusion of blood) and purulent inflammation of the cellular tissue in his shins from the perpetual beatings.

There is one more thing which the Mikhail's and his family's testaments make clear: on more than one occasion, Mikhail was witness to the fact that his comrades, finding themselves in situations similar to those described above, went to the officers of their unit to ask for protection. This always ended in the same manner: the officers would put the responsibility for dealing with these incidents onto those very sergeants and senior conscripts who were committing the crimes.

  • Nikolai Vilegzhanin, Mil. Unit 31181, Uglovo

Nikolai was drafted into Military Unit 31181 of the Navy on 11th May 1999. From his declaration: "Senior conscripts have this tradition that when they only have 100 days left until home, then the young conscripts, as I was to them, have to bring them expensive cigarettes every day. They have another tradition: to drink tea in the evenings after the sign-off. But to get hold of tea and sugar for them, as well as something to go with the tea, you have to steal food from the galley. Apart from this they demand money. With every day it got worse and worse, they beat me up several times a day, demanding money. They took away my parcels from home and all money which had been paid to me by law. They opened all the letters that I had written to home and that had arrived for me".

  • Vladimir Pavlov, Mil. Unit 37551, Sertolovo

Vladimir was conscripted on 29th December 2000 to the military unit in Sertolovo, near Saint Petersburg. From his declaration: "In the first days of our stay in the unit the sergeants and other senior conscripts ransacked our kit-bags and took away our things. On the first night they got us up and demanded money from us, 20 roubles from each of us. We did not have any money and they beat us up with truncheons. When our parents came to us they ordered us to bring 150 roubles".

  • Alexei Utmanov, Mil. Unit 37551, Sertolovo

Conscripted on 15th December 2000, he writes: "On 10th February (2001), after taking the oath, they sent me away on temporary release. Sergeant Glebov, the commander of the platoon, ordered me to bring back food and money from my release. When I returned from release without money and food, Glebov beat me up. He hit me with his legs, a stool on my head, the handles from the bed, forced me to do press-ups for 1 and a half hours. And this continued for 3 days. I went to the san. It turned out that I had a concussion. They said to me that I should stay in the sanitarium until the bruises went away. And then to the military hospital. However, when the bruises did go, they dispatched me back into the company, and not into military hospital". After appealing to the organisation, Alexei was sent to military hospital. His case is now before the Military Medical Commission.

7 Refusal to render medical aid

Getting beaten up is one thing, not receiving medical care is worse. The refusal to render medical aid comes not only from the officers but also from the medical staff themselves. Beating and cruel behaviour happens inside medical centres or hospitals, under the eyes of nurses and doctors.

  • Vladimir Kuklyev, Mil. Unit 21146, Lipyetsk.

Drafted on 24th May 2000 into the Guard Company of the Air Force. An extract from a letter sent by Vladimir's mother: "...my son rang from the hospital in the town of Lipyetsk, beseeching that I come as the question of an operation on his brain had arisen. He had already been in hospital for 4 days and no-one from the command had let me know! It turned out that Vlad had been in the guardhouse for 8 days and nights in a row."

  • Mikhail Yunolainyen, Mil. Unit 92558, Buinaksk.

Drafted despite a heart condition. On the day of conscription, 3rd December 1999, Misha was dispatched to the Northern Caucasus in Dagestan.

From the declaration made by Misha's mother: "Upon arrival in the unit, from the first few days, the senior servicemen began to beat up all the rookies - they call this "the course for the young warrior", which lasts 3 days. Then they began to humiliate them selectively: they would draw them up in rank and take out every third person from the line-up and then brutishly strike them with fists and feet. My son was an ill-fated "three". After a beating on 17th December Misha went for medical help, which they didn't give him. At 3.30am on 23rd December drunken "tankists" (conscripts who have 100 days left to serve) burst into the barracks and began to savagely beat up the sleeping boys with their belts and belt-buckles, and they beat my son with a stool on his head. Only 24 hours later he was sent to the medical centre with the diagnosis: enclosed cranial-cerebral trauma and concussion. Arriving on 31st December to see my son, I did not find him in the medical department. It turned out that Misha and another seven ill soldiers had been taken out of their confinement (Misha was confined to bed). An ensign had put them in a car and driven to town to load lumber 5 metres in length, for his personal gain...

In the barracks it was cold: down to 0'C at night, a reeking stench, lice."

After a long difficult argument with the military doctors who stubbornly avoiding stating the obvious, Misha was declared unfit for operational service. Not one of the torturers was punished.

  • Dmitri Voropaev, Mil Unit 11820, Mga

Dmitri was drafted into the army on 9th June 2000 and was sent to military unit 11820, stationed at the Mga base in the Leningrad Region. His mother, Nadezhda Yefanova, came to visit him soon after and found that he was covered in boils, as well as suffering from a hacking cough. She arranged an appointment with his commander and asked for her son to be transferred to the sanatorium. He gruffly replied, "Over my dead body" and so her only option was to stay near the base for 4 days, providing Dmitri with medicine herself. The next time she came to visit, his health had still further deteriorated and he was now complaining of pains in his liver and stomach. The poor army diet and living conditions were clearly taking a severe toll on his body's immune system.

As a result of later beatings from fellow conscripts (Dmitri's story is also included in the chapter "Torture from the Soldiers"), Nadezhda got in touch with "The Soldiers' Mothers of St Petersburg", who are pressing for Dmitri's temporary discharge on account of his health while the issue of his fitness is determined. It has become clear that he should never have been conscripted in the first place. His mother experienced pronounced toxicosis during the first half of her pregnancy and during his childhood, Dmitri suffered from bronchitis, meningitis, and drawn-out migraines which would prevent him from sleeping for up to 3 nights in a row. In 1998, he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident from which he received a severe trauma to the head. His aunt was on the same motorcycle at the time and saw how Dmitri swerved into a passing car as if on purpose. When asked why he did this, Dmitri replied that he had voices in his head entreat him to do so. As if this physical and psychological unsuitability were not sufficient, Dmitri is now nervy, depressed and dispirited as a result of his recent experiences. He has fainting-fits and constant pains in his forehead, he cries all the time, he shrieks at night and he has started to have thoughts about suicide. Of course, the irony is that military life has ultimately made Dmitri even more unfit for military service.

  • Dmitri Molchanov, Mil. Unit 01375, Mga

Dmitri was conscripted into Military Unit 01375 of the Railway Forces on 22nd December 1999. He was sick when he was conscripted: yearly he would catch bronchitis about 8 times. He was registered with a neurological-pathologist. In the military unit Dima was constantly beaten up by his sergeants (names are recorded in his declaration). His illness was constantly being exacerbated. The sergeants would not send him to the sanatorium and he was even forced to go on duty with a high temperature. When he was unable to move an inch, they finally sent him to the military hospital, where he stayed for more than a month. When he was discharged, they recommended that he be excused from military service and observed by a doctor in the sanatorium for a period of 15 days. But he was not sent to the sanatorium and instead was immediately put on detail in the company. "Once Sergeant Unadzhyev really viciously beat me. He knocked my head against the concrete floor. I lost consciousness. He dragged me out into the wash-room, put icy water into a bucket and poured it over me. I appealed to the company commander but he didn't try to sort out the situation and refused to allow me medical aid". After turning to the organisation, Dmitri was examined by independent doctors and decommissioned by the Medical Doctor's Commissary in summer 2000.

  • Alexei Sinyagin, Mil. Unit 41684, Podolsk

When Alexei was drafted, he had medical photographs taken which showed a darkening on the lungs. These were presented to the Conscription Commission but the doctor decided that the photograph was not of sufficient quality and Alexei joined Military Unit 41684, stationed in Podolsk, on 1st July 1999. In the military unit another 8 photographs were taken which confirmed a darkening on the lungs. However, Alexei was not sent to military hospital for an examination and to receive treatment. Nobody heeded Alexei's complaints. He started to feel worse and worse until he was forced to leave the unit to protect his right for good health. He went to the commandant's office in St Petersburg where, instead of giving him medical help, they put him in the guard-room. On 16th March 2000 a delegate from his unit took Alexei out of the guard-room: in spite of the fact that Alexei could hardly stand on his feet because of battery (in the guard-room he had been beaten by the officer cadets on guard) and a high temperature (40° C), they intended to send him back to the unit in Podolsk. Luckily, Alexei's father managed to take him from the train station. An examination by independent doctors revealed that Alexei had dextral abscessing pneumonia, dextral pleurisy, fractures to the 7th right-hand rib and 3rd left hand rib... Alexei was decommissioned

  • Eduard Konnov, Military Unit 45935, Blyukhera

Eduard was drafted into the army on 28th November 2000 and ended up in Military Unit 45935, based in Blyukhera on the outskirts of St Petersburg. Shortly after arriving in the unit, Eduard began to get head-aches. He went to the sanitary centre of his unit for treatment but instead was hit on the head, by whom it is not clear. Eduard started to wet his bed, probably from the cold and the poor diet. As punishment for this, something which he simply could not control, he was beaten up by Lance-Corporal Zhuzyenko. His mattress was also taken away and he was forced to sleep on the metal springs of his bed-frame.

On 8th April 2001 Eduard fell into a coma. His friends have informed him that he was not taken to military hospital for a week. Yet even after he was sent to hospital, his parents were still not telephoned by the officers. They were not informed of his state until 17th April, some 9 days after he lost consciousness. Luckily, on 19th April 2001, Eduard woke up and began to speak. He is now being examined by independent civilian doctors with a view to release on condition of his health.

8 Pits in Chechnya

The use of pits as a detention place came into common practice during the first Chechen war. However, they are essentially not a new phenomenon of the Russian Federation - they existed under Communism as well. We have the testimony of Reserve officers who have stated that pits were used as a training tool during the Afghan war and even during peace-time in the outlying garrisons. Then, as now, the pits were called "zindans", an Afghan word. The Soldiers' Mothers do not have many written declarations about these pits, as people are afraid to talk about them and keep the information to themselves.

  • Yuri Koryagin, Mil. Unit 2122

Yuri was conscripted into the army on 11th November 1998 and guarded the border with Georgia near the hamlet of Tuskharoye in the Itum-Kalin region of Chechnya from March to November 2000. One day Yuri marched very sloppily in the unit's line-up and then did not salute his officer. The punishment for this was 20 days in a pit. He described it in the following fashion: a large, roomy hole of about 25 metres square and 1 and a half metres depth. Together with Yuri, there were 10 other soldiers. They were rarely fed, the floor was damp earth and blankets were not given out. They were not allowed to have warm clothes. Yuri came out of the pit chronically sick.

According to Yuri, the officers nagged without reason, because of a bad mood, so as to force the soldiers to feel like slaves. For the smallest blunder - their subordinates were put into a pit... As a rule, the mockery came from the officers who were on duty, irritated that they were working and not relaxing. Usually the soldiers were put in the pits for about 10 days. Any more than this and they would fall seriously ill. A pay-off was impossible in this unit - he could not pay to get out of the zindan.

  • Alexei K., Mil. Unit 44822, Ministry of Defence.

Alexei K. has made a witness statement about the existence of torture pits on the territory of military units in Chechnya. Alexei, hired on a 30-year army contract, found himself serving in military unit 44822, as part of 291st regiment of the Ministry of Defence. A pit in Khankala was Alexei's fate for his supposed miscalculations, Khankala being the main military base where the Headquarters of the United Group of Military Forces in the North Caucasus, under the command of General Baranov, is stationed.

Alexei, like Private Koryagin, did not use the word 'pit' - only 'zindan'. Alexei was put in a very small pit, in which there was hardly room for 4 people but where things were not so strict: the soldiers ransomed comrades from the officers. Two bottles of champagne equalled one person.

Alexei came out of the pit with extremely severe bronchitis, a temperature of 39° C, having firmly resolved to tear his contract to shreds. It took him 2 days, from 11th to 13th February 2001, to travel from Khankala to Moscow, every now and then loosing consciousness due to his high temperature. And then another week to reach his home in the North - travelling as a stowaway (he had no money) on eighteen slow suburban trains.

9 Show trials

Artemi Klimov[4], Mil. Unit 45935

Artemi Klimov was drafted into the army on 8th June 2000. From his declaration:

"Our senior medical mechanic wanted easy money and, unknown by us, he made a hole from our workshop into the kit store and took things out of there and sold them. He carefully camouflaged the hole. And we found out about it when we found a pair of military boots and an uniform in our workshop. He said that we shouldn't speak to anyone about this manhole and we shouldn't climb through it. Of course there was nothing for us to do apart from keep quiet as our senior medical mechanic had been serving half a year longer than us. And it's better not to play with pheasants (standard nick-name for those who have been serving more than a year), and also he said that if the hole was found, we'd all end up doing time".

In time, the hole was discovered by the officers. One day, Sergei Bolshakov (story found under chapter "Torture from the Officers") and Klimov were in the workshop together, when the clothing store superintendent, Ensign Filipov, the head of the kit office, Captain Golod and Major Chudinov all came into the room and approached them.

"Captain Golod took me into a workshop where he tried to drive out a confession with inch-pipe - who, when and how many clothes they had taken. But as I didn't know how many or when and because I was afraid to dob on Inyakov (the senior medical mechanic), I said that I didn't know anything about the hole. Captain Golod hit me on the soft parts of my body, then he lead me out of the little room and invited my comrade, Sergei Bolshakov, to join him there. With him, as I understand it, he held the very same chat as he had with me. I heard Sergei's screams. Then he had a talk with Inyakov. After all of this, they led us this to the education department, for questioning by Captain Sivoz. First they took away Senior Medical Mechanic Inyakov, Captain Golod took a crow-bar and a dumb-weight with him, for what purpose Bolshakov and I didn't know. While they tortured him there I worked out the purpose of the crow-bar and dumb-weight, and as I have some kind of illness - I was gasping and shaking, my heart felt bad and I went for some help in the medical unit. They gave me sedatives there and Captain Golod came for me and dragged me out of there by force.

He took me into Captain Sivoz's office. He sat me down in an armchair, there was a syringe and some kind of ampoule lying on Sivoz's desk. He suggested that I should immediately own up but there was nothing for me to own up to. Then they fastened my hands under my legs with handcuffs, pushed the crow-bar through my arms and went off to smoke. When I came round, I began to feel that I was suffocating and started to call for help. Everything turned white in my eyes and I came round on the floor, it shook me like epilepsy, after which they sent me to the medical unit.

I stayed in the medical unit until evening, in the evening Colonel Cherkov summoned me out of there to the HQ. There he said that Inyakov had admitted that he had gotten into the store and that it was necessary to write down what role I had played in this matter, while I wrote Captain Golod struck me a couple of times with his foot so as to speed up the process.

After this we were taken to the barracks where we spent the night attached to our beds with handcuffs.

Like nothing had happened we went on parade in the morning and then to work, Then, at the General Assembly in the club, Major Goradyetsky lodged a suit against us to the value of 9000 Rubles, saying that our parents should come on 11th March for the resolution of this problem. Inyakov dispatched a telegram to Krasnodar and I rang home and said father should come on 11th March but as he couldn't come on 11th March (he was on duty), he would come on 8th March, I spoke with the Policy Deputy, the Battalion Commander and with Captain Golod. Captain Golod said that he had to speak to Major Tyagunovy and he had to come on 11th.

In the evening of 9th March me and Sergei Bolshakov were cleaning out the sewage pipes, when captain Golod approached us. He said to me that my father was a bastard because he didn't want to pay any money (money which he doesn't have) and said I should dive into the toilet-bowl that he said to wash with that water or I'll drown you there, when I refused he ran after me, floored me and kicking me with his feet he started to drag me to the draw-well. Having shoved me into the toilet-bowl just as I was, he went away satisfied and promised that they would f--- me up the arse.

When I went into the barracks, they were already waiting for me, I popped into the toilet to wash and a drunken soldier, Sergeant Borodinov, came up to me.

He beat me, condemning me and Bolshakov for wanting to put the blame onto Inyakov and seem white as snow ourselves. I was sitting on the floor of the toilet all covered in blood when Captain Golod came in, he said Borodinov should leave me in peace and that he very much wanted to frilly me over with his footprints. I immediately understood that Captain Golod had especially set the sergeant on me, as he was friendly with Sergeant Borodinov, like I think he had plied him with drink. The platoon commander Colonel Kuntakh found out about all of this, he was responsible for the battery, he ordered me to write a report under the name KV about what had happened. So I did that. The report went as far as the training division but didn't go any further.

I went to the division on the order of Captain Golod. He told me that I had set him up and that it was all a pack of lies, and he hadn't promised to set anyone on me. Nobody gave the report back to me, they said if Golod acted like this again, I should go to them.

On 11th March Bolshakov's parents and my father arrived. They were told that we had to pay back the value of the stolen goods or they would take us to court and that we'd end up in jail for complicity (covering-up), according to 158 article III, they didn't even drop a hint about what had happened to me for 2 days. They put the matter aside until the arrival of Inyakov's mother. But she still hadn't come. Threats from Golod were constant and by chance I found out that Captain Golod had asked sergeants from the Training Batteries to beat us up. Relations with everyone in the unit got worse and living and being there became impossible."

  • Vladimir Kirsanov, Mil. Unit 42289, Kirillovskoye

Vladimir was drafted into the army on 12th May 1999. After a year of service, a huge sum of money was suddenly demanded of him, a sum which he begged an acquaintance to give him, having said that if he didn't have the money, then serious problems would arise for him. On 11th May 2000 Volodya's mother received a telegram in which it was related that her son had ostensibly deserted from his unit on 7th May. A search was announced. On the initiative of our organisation information was given out on television.

Vladimir later returned to his unit. On 1st April 2001, Volodya was convicted of desertion according to Article 338. He is serving 18 months in a disciplinary battalion.

  • Anton Panichev, Mil. Unit 01630, Kolpino

Anton was conscripted into the army on 1st November 1998 in spite of 2nd degree obesity and arthritis. He was sent to serve at Military Unit 01630 of the Ministry of Extraordinary Events, based in Kolpino. From his declaration: "I felt constantly anxious and tense in the unit because I experienced constant pressure from the Dagestani military servicemen. Senior Sergeant Nartikoyev and Koloyev extorted money from me, demanded that I bring them food and cigarettes. If I didn't bring what they demanded, they beat me up". Defending his life, Anton was forced to desert his unit. Together with his father Anton went to the unit commander. Anton was put in the guardroom, where he fell ill. He pleaded to be allowed to go to the sanitary department. But they only sent him to the doctor on the sixth day, when Anton was already unable to walk unsupported.

Nartikoyev and Koloyev had free access to the regimental guardroom, where they would come at any time and "educate" the arrested, in whose number was Anton. As a result of this "education", Anton left the unit again. An acquaintance of Anton, Maria, told how a group of military servicemen (Nartikoyev and Koloyev were part of this group) under the lead of Lieutenant Maslennikov ambushed her father's flat. They unlawfully broke in and then bound Anton and Maria with ropes. The group of soldiers and officers had a few drinks together and made a call to Dagestan to the value of 400 roubles. They moved to another flat, to a certain Yusupov, where they continued to get drunk. During this time Anton and Maria got loose and ran away.

Anton then went to the prosecutor's office. Instead of aiding him, he was sent back to his unit where a show trial took place on 11th March 2001. Anton was sentenced to 2 years deprivation of liberty. And those who had violated his constitutional rights were discharged from service with honours. After the trial, Anton was delivered to the "Cross" prison in St Petersburg.

After the intervention of a public defence counsel from the "Soldiers' Mothers of St Petersburg", Anton's case was sent for review at the Court of Appeal. The District Court has voided the decision of the Garrison Court and Anton was liberated from his custodians in the court-house.

Anton's health has now been utterly undermined. He went for an examination with civilian doctors and is securing a direction to the Military Doctors' Commissary so as to determine the degree of his fitness for military service.

  • Andrei Karpov, Mil. Unit 34581, Valdai

Andrei was drafted on 3rd December 1999. From his mother's declaration: "He ran away from the unit but then returned on the request and promise of the unit Deputy Commander, C. V. Glukhov, to sort out Andrei's problems. In the unit they made an example of Andrei in a show trial, where he was sentenced to 6 months in a disciplinary battalion".

  • Alexei Potapov, Mil. Unit 2139, Viborg

Alexei was commissioned in June 2000 into Military Unit of the Border Forces, stationed in Viborg near the Finnish border. From a letter sent by Alexei's mother to the organisation: "In August Alyosha wrote to us that he was in hospital (because) he had been fed with manganese. He wrote, "I took a piece of bread and carried it away to my bedside table. In the evening I felt like eating. I ate and drank down some water, then I felt awful, some-one had spread manganese on my bread". It was discovered that Alyosha had 2 cm of burns". Alexei stayed in hospital for 21 days.

A show trial took place: Alexei was convicted of self-maiming with a view to evading military service and sentenced to 18 months in a disciplinary battalion.

10 Catastrophic health situation in the Russian army

Everyone knows that conditions in Russian barracks are far from comfortable but the declarations given below reveal a bleak picture of unhygienic, barbaric living conditions in the Russian army. Soldiers get no clean clothes, nor any underwear. They receive the clothes from a conscript who has just finished serving his time. Boots are worn out and if your size is not available, you will have to walk in boots that do not fit. Conscripts have no time to wash themselves or their clothes, they often sleep in their clothes or bullet-proof vests. Lice are very common in barracks.

The food is either of very poor quality (and by that we do not mean that the meat is not grilled "à point") or just does not exist. Frequently there is not enough to eat, but that is just too bad for the junior conscript soldiers. The nutritional value is very low: the soldiers do not get enough fats, proteins or vitamins. This causes all kinds of diseases: stomach ulcers, skin diseases, dizziness, fainting and malfunctioning organs. The meals are not varied: cabbage and porridge for two years of service. The food is often rotten and fresh fruit or vegetables (other than cabbage) are an extraordinary luxury. After a while, the soldiers can only think of one thing: food. They are not able to follow orders because of the nagging pains in their stomach. They are too weak, too sick.

Case histories

  • Alexei Popovich, Mil. Unit 01480, Pechenga

Alexei Popovich was drafted on 21st June 1999 to serve in Military Unit 01480, stationed at Pechenga in the Murmansk Region. After a few months of service, his health began to suffer from a diet of dried cabbage and boiled water. He spent New Year 1999/2000 in the sanatorium with stomach pains, probably caused by this malnutrition. In a letter sent to his mother in early January 2000, Alexei claimed that these stomach pains continued to plague him but the commanding officers refused to send him to the military hospital for a consultation. In this highly literate letter, one can read paragraph after paragraph about how Alexei was obsessed by home-food.

"Every night I dream of a room, of mummy's (your) little pies with potato and meat, pelmeni with mayonnaise, delicious rissoles with macaroni. But when you open your eyes: dried cabbage with a suspect smell. Eat - you become a goat's kid, don't eat - you die from starvation. Serving under a whip - like slaves, my heart hurts. Here everyone spits at you, no-one needs anything. Here even the doctors are only Molieres and Raskolnikovs.So that's my foolish service, utter hell... There's a terrible lack of vitamins, mum. Send a pair of apples - I will be happy, very happy.

Here the finger on my hand is beginning to rot - it's swollen up, become fatter than my thumb. It was operated on, cut open - angry with blood. A scary sight. They cut the skin off half the finger, my nail still remains but they say, it's already dead. So that's that.

Every night, you won't believe, I dream of food and sustenance. You imagine how you will arrive, you'll buy 2 kilos of pelmeni for yourself - one kilo you'll boil, the other you'll fry with mayonnaise or you'll fry pasta with tinned meat and eggs or varenneki with potato, porridge with butter and sugar (or with condensed milk?!). So everything lies in front of my eyes every night... And just think what kind of a hell-hole I'm in - and it's becoming awful. I want to serve but in a normal manner, like all my friends.... The unit is three barracks with one canteen, where there are no boundaries, where the "Chernomazis" and the "Khachikis" (bad names for people from the southern republics) beat us up! Under every cause - "dedovshina", corvee, drunken bacchanalia. Life is not life but existence, a fight for survival, like animals have, if not worse.... Trust me, everything else in my life is fine, don't fret and don't worry, please, give me your word on this. Don't tell anyone about my life. I will cope... Your son, Alexei.

Alexei lost 10 kilos over 1 and ½ months, ending up with a weight of just 49 kilos. He was finally hospitalised. After this, he would have been sent to Chechnya, had his mother not approached the "Soldiers Mothers of St Petersburg", who facilitated his decommissioning on neurological reasons.

  • Dmitri Shmonin, Mil. Unit 96160, Buinaksk, Dagestan

Dmitri was conscripted into Military Unit 96169, stationed in Buinaksk (Dagestan) on 16th June 1999. From the declaration made by Dmitri's mother: "...It wasn't my son, having seen him I nearly fainted. Totally alien eyes, filled with the tears of his hopeless condition, were looking at me. He was dirty and had lost 18 kilos. Before my arrival they put him in hospital for dysentery. But he stayed there all of 3 days before he was urgently discharged back to the unit. After the all-clear, at 11.05pm on 13th August 1999, Dima and another 3 soldiers were roused to take their oath and just after mid-night they were sent to the zone of military operations, in Botlikh. Up to that time Dima had served for all of 2 months and didn't even know how to shoot.

They had little sleep, just in their uniform and bullet-proof vest, they didn't wash for a month, they were over-grown with dirt and lice. They were poorly fed, no bread for three days...

Before my departure I gave my son a parcel and money. On that very night he was beaten up and his money taken away. He was beaten on the head with bolts from the BTR. Having reached a state of despair, Dima left his unit on 27th September 1999 and turned for help from the local inhabitants, who communicated to me what had happened. I went to Dagestan and took away my son. He had been beaten over, with hematoma to the head."

Carrying out an independent examination of the condition of Dima's health and having turned to the military officials, his mother obtained a direction for hospitalisation from the Military Medical Commission. On 7th December 1999 Dmitri was declared unfit for drill service.

  • Ivan Morozov, Mil. Unit 63276, Devyatkino

Drafted on 13th November 1998 into military unit 63276 of the Ministry of Extraordinary Situations, stationed in Devyatkino. On 25th June 1999 he was on temporary leave due to a difficult family situation and was not able to return on time. He was punished: put in the guard-room. In the cell he was poisoned with bleaching powder (his eyes stung and there was no way of breathing), he was not let out to the toilet, he was irregularly fed and beaten.

  • Alexei Shivakov, Mil. Unit 37551, Sertelovo

Alexei was drafted into military unit 37551 on 26th December 2000. This training unit in Sertelovo is the exemplar in the Leningrad region and therefore various delegations (both Russian and those from abroad) often visit the unit. For this reason the soldiers are forced to work for days without rest or night-time sleep (for 5 days in a row) in preparation for the arrival of guests. From Alexei's declaration: "They forced us to work on different things: we unloaded coal from train wagons, cleaned away snow at night, washed the floors everywhere on the half-hour, we painted, sand-papered in the ice, we mended the green-houses, laid down bricks for days on end, laid the floors with cement, unloaded sand from the vehicles". As a result of this work, Alexei ripped open his own vein. He was sent to hospital but they would not take him in. The psychiatrist did not bother to properly investigate him and simply wrote in his medical records: "To the commander of the unit, an investigation should be carried out concerning mass suicide". After appealing to the Soldiers' Mothers, Alexei was put in military hospital and the Military Medical Commission pronounced him unfit for active service in April 2001.

  • Vadim Rybin, Mil. Unit 92582, Buinaksk, Dagestan

Vadim was drafted into the army on 3rd December 1999. From his mother's declaration: "The sanitary conditions in the unit are lower than any norm, the water is turned on once a day, for 20-30 minutes. The crockery (mess-tins, spoons, mugs) was not given out on each personal account, therefore they used crockery in turns. There was no possibility of cleaning out the crockery. Feeds came from poorly peeled, unwashed potatoes, cabbage and rotten fish. The kasha had grain maggots. Because of the absence of water and appropriate utilities there was no chance of washing his uniform and underclothes. As a consequence of this every member of the personnel had body lice".

Alexander Pomogaev[5], Mil. Unit 43117, Sosnovii Bor

The Soldiers' Mothers received this letter from Alexander Pomogaev on 26th April 2001:

"Hello. Not knowing how I should appeal to you, I'll start straight away with myself: I, Alexander Pomogaev, am serving in the ranks of the Russian army and I am writing to you with a request to help me in my trouble. At the start of February, the skin on my face began to rot. They put me in military hospital, after a month I was discharged. Having worked just 2 days, everything started anew, I went to the military hospital, there I was dispatched to the Command hospital from which they sent me back. In our hospital they gave me some kind of ointment and sent me to the unit and to this day I am in agony, the ointment isn't helping, with every day everything gets worse and worse, all my face has become like wood, my neck and shoulders are covered in blemishes and it all itches.

In the military hospital they said that they don't know how and with what to treat me but they already can't give me injections because I've already had an excess, so what now is gonna get rid of my agony? I asked them and I got the reply: lie in the sun. You could think that I was not in the army but in a health resort. So this is my request, if they can't cure me, then they should give me sick-leave. I will be cured as a civilian in hospital, after all I'm still a person and not an animal...

Please help. With many entreaties to you. A. A. Pomogaev".

Although at this time, the cause of Alex's illness has not been determined, advising some-one with an undiagnosed rash to lie in the sunshine amounts to medical incompetence. It may well be relevant to note that the location of Military Unit 43117 in Sosnovii Bor is very close to the Leningrad Atomic Power Station.

  • Alexander Yelizarov, Northern Fleet, Severomorsk.

Alexander was conscripted into the Northern Fleet on 30th October 2000 and served on a ship based in Severomorsk.

From his mother's declaration: "He practically ate nothing for three weeks, saying that while food gets to us, the "dedy" have already eaten it all up (in the canteen) and order that "the food-sitting is over". He only succeeded in watching how the others ate. His under-clothes were dirty, they did not change it in the wash-room. His boots were torn, damp, worn on bare feet. At night he practically couldn't sleep since the "dedy" decided not to give out a blanket for the first half year. On two occasions they lowered Alex through a window on sheets with demands to bring back vodka and sausage. If you do not bring it, there's either a beating or sexual touch-up. Now he wretches after every bit of food. When he told me about all of this, his hands were shaking, his head was spinning, tears were pouring. He said he would hang himself".

After an examination with an independent doctor, Alexander was sent to the Military Medical Commission and he was decommissioned in April 2001.

  • Roman Davydov, Mil. Unit 52594, Far East

Roman served in military unit 52594, stationed in the Far East military district. From his mother's declaration: "The temperature was really low in the barracks. For this reason Roman constantly catching chills. As a result his ear became inflamed. This led to a partial loss of hearing. During work outside he caught frost-bite in his legs from being on his knees in the snow. He carried on working with frost bitten legs since the doctor would not give him a release. Raw ulcers and abscesses appeared on his body". Having gone on leave, Roman went to independent civilian doctors for a consultation. He was decommissioned in May 2001.

Medical examination carried out in Military Unit 45935

In spring 2000, the organisation was approached by the command of Military Unit 45935. They asked for assistance in compiling a medical report on a group of their young conscripts. As we understand it, this report was initiated on a warning made by a military psychologist that there was a dangerously high level of suicidal tendencies within the unit itself. In July 2000 the following list was dispatched by the organisation to V. Krilov, Head of the 9th Medical Doctors' Commissary, N. Sokolovski, Head of the Military Medical Office in the Leningrad Military District and V. Titov, Commander of Military Unit 45935. As a result of this report and the subsequent petitions made by the conscripts' families, many of the young men mentioned below were decommissioned on account of their health.

This list is indicative of how many young men should never be allowed into the Russian army in the first place. It also reveals the level of chronic ill-health in the Russian army today and shows the diverse areas of the country from which these boys were drafted. These sicknesses are not localised, they are Russia-wide. Furthermore, physical and psychological conditions are found in equal measure. It appears that the psychologist's concerns about mass suicidal tendencies were more than justified.

Name and Date of birth of serviceman, subject to release Location of the appropriate conscription commission and date of conscription State of health
Mikhail Andreyev, 1982Kuz'min province, Moscow. 19/05/2000Bed-wetting, toxic dependency, 3rd degree of flat-foot, hyperhydrosis of the palms
Valentin Bichayev, 1982Kirov province, Omsk. 2000.Myocarditis, otitis, deafness to the right ear, head-aches
Aleksandr VoronovKotlas

(Archangelsk Province)

Underweight, logo-neurosis
Yevgenii Gross, 1980Kamen'-on-the-Obi (Altai Region)Heart-pains, anxiety, constant phobia.
Denis Goryeiko, 1982Lazo

(Khabarovsk Region)

Depression, psychopathy - pre-conscription he was in the hospital Psychiatric Department
Denis Gruzlyev, 1981Komsomol'ska-on-the-Amur (Khabarovsk Region)Leg-spasms, fear, depression, fatigue
Dmitri Davidov, 1981Kotovo, (Nizhyegorod Province)Scoliosis, suicide attempt (cut his vein)
Andrei Dishkint, 1980Armavir (Krasnodar Region)A fracture to the collar-bone (45' angle), swollen larynx, heart-pains, neurological maladies
Rozlik Dyadyeryan, 1981Sochi (Krasnodar Region)Psychiatric maladies, bed-wetting, kidney pains
Anatolii Zabelin, 1982Kalinin district, Tveri.Concussion and loss of consciousness on 3 occasions
Andryei Ivanov, 1980Roslavl' (Smolyenksk Province)Hysteria, loss of consciousness, psychopathy, bed-wetting, concussion
Denis Iorov, 1981Pryeobrazhyenski district, MoscowSwelling to the chest (near the nipple), opaque consciousness, suicide attempt, on the register of the Psycho-Neurological Dispensary
Aleksandr Kryukov, 1981Oktyabr district, Omsk.Hepatitis, tonsillitis, heart-pains
Viktor Kvaratskhyeniya, 1982Sochi (Krasnodar Region)Neurological maladies, cranial-cerebral trauma
Il'shat Kinzyabayev, 1982Khaibulin district, BashkortostanTuberculosis resistance (previous contact), fracture to the left collarbone
Konstantin Mityashov, 1981Amursk (Khabarov Region)Spasms, pains in the legs, pains in the left side, head-aches, pain in the forehead, psychopathy, paresis in the left hand, suicidal state
Yuri Nikiforov, 1980Zelenograd (Moscow Province)Tuberculosis resistance (previous contact), on the register of the Tuberculosis Dispensary, loss of consciousness, mitre valve prolapse, ambiopathy, photophobia, spasms, angulation of the gall bladder, bronchial asthma, cranial-cerebral trauma, nervous ticks, dizziness, on the register of the Psycho-Neurological Dispensary
Alexei Markov, 1981Moscow district, Nizhni NovogorodLeg cramps, lost consciousness 2 times on parade, visual and auditory hallucinations, underweight, anaemia, myocarditis, psychopathy, on the register of a rheumatologist
Pavel Pavlov, 1982? MoscowDrug poisoning, memory loss (admitted to Filatov hospital), loss of sight, haematoma to the brain, sluggish flow of blood to and from the brain, head-aches, cramps in the eyes, dizziness, on the register of the Psycho-Neurological Dispensary
Valeri Ponomaryev, 1981Omsk region (Omsk Province)Ptosis of the kidney for 5cm, bed-wetting (3-4 times a night), pre-ulcerous condition, pains in the kidneys, pains in the small-of-the-back, neurological disorder
Andrei Sokolov, 1978? OmskLeg-spasms, pains in the spine, small-of-the-back, chest area. Was released from service on after an orthopaedic instruction (spine)
Dmitri Stepanyenko, 1982Apatita (Murmansk Province)Loss of consciousness on more than one occasion, suicide attempt (cut his veins), nightmares, cries during sleep, nose-bleeds, pains in the heart, legs and arms go numb at night, darkening in the eyes when raising his head, fainting-fits
Aleksandr Skorokhatov, 1982? OmskSuicide attempt (hanging), beaten on the head with a stool on 2 occasions, delayed development, concussion, narcotic and alcoholic dependency, on the register of the Psycho-Neurological Dispensary until 8 years old
Sergei Savyel'yev, 1978Bogorodsko (Nizhyegorod Province)2 cranial-cerebral traumas, hymoritis, head-aches, nose-bleeds, pains in the legs, pains in the small-of-the-back, fatigue, heavy perspiration, drowsiness
Dmitri Timiryazyev, 1981Krasnokamsk region, BashkortostanSevere conjunctivitis, nephropathy, 2-3 degree hypotrophy, spasms in a toe on the right foot, atrophy in the thumb on the right hand, tension of the right ear, Quinke's edema
Ivan Trubachyev, 1982Kotlas region (Archangel Province)Premature birth, tongue-tied, bed-wetting, neuritis of the foot, sleep-disorders, personality disorder, organic damage to the brain
Vladimir Tolokonnikov, 1979Siktivkar (Komi)Bed-wetting, organic damage to the brain, hydrocephaly, stuttering, gastro-dyodenitis, trachial bronchitis, nose-bleeds, hyperhydrosis of the palms, likelihood of hereditary illnesses, was registered for observation by a neuropathologist
Nikolai Fyedorov, 1981Zelenogor (Moscow Province)Logo-neurosis, likelihood of hereditary illnesses, bed-wetting until 14 years, leg-spasms, underweight, gastritis, psychopathy, hyperhydrosis of the palms, heartburn, mobility of the kidneys, his birth had complications
Maxim Fyeshuk, 1980Bezenchuk (Samar Province)Stressful state after the death of his mother, headaches, quick-tempered, irritability, psychopathy, fatigue, drowsiness, hyperhydrosis of the palms, developmental delay
Alexei Shevyakhov, 1981Tolyatti (Samar Province)Sleep-talking, spasms, headaches, former alcoholic dependency, use of drugs, premature birth
Yevgeni Shevyakhov, 1981Tolyatti (Samar Province)Premature birth, did not cry immediately

11 Complete impunity

  • Alexander Kayankin, Mil. Unit 22336, Volgograd

At around 4pm on 5th September 1999 Alexander was on duty at the checkpoint in Military Unit 22336. Captain Cherkovskii, coming out of the HQ building, saw that Kayankin was not wearing the belt on his great-coat. Cherkovskii called Alex over and struck him on the face with his fist. After this, he ordered Alex to follow him into the store-room to collect the bullet-proof vests for the personal staff of the division. When they both went into the store-room, Cherkovskii took a used cartridge case containing a shell from a quick-fire artillery gun and hit Alex no less than 5 times on the head with this cartridge case. As a result of this beating, Alex left his unit and went to the military prosecutor's office in his local area. He was sent to the Military Medical Commission and was decommissioned on the basis of neurological illness. As a consequence it was established that Alex was now officially disabled.

On Alex's plea, criminal proceedings were instigated against Captain Cherkovskii in spring 2000 in accordance with Article 286 Part 3 of the P.A. Criminal Codex of the Russian Federation. During the investigation the victim experienced constant pressure from the investigator. On 6th December 2000 Investigator Serkin interrogated Alex with bias for 5 hours in three confrontations - that means, at the same time as Alex, Serkin was interrogating another accused. On the demand from Alex's proxy (his mother) to take into account the condition of his health, the investigator did not react. After the interrogation, Alex felt awful and was forced to go for medical help.

The prosecutor V. V. Kuznetsov demanded that Alex produce a written retraction from the criminal proceedings, and only after this would he return the medical documents which Alex had submitted for the investigation. The prosecutor thumped on the table, shouted and humiliated Sasha and his mother to such an extent that Sasha was driven to despair and began to cry.

R. V. Cherkovskii is not appearing at the investigative hearings and is trying in every possible way to avoid being punished while the law-enforcing authorities turn a blind eye. Three main witnesses have not been questioned. After transferring activities to the courts, the juridical hearings are also being dragged out in every possible way.

  • Vladimir Melnikov, Mil. Unit 37271, Vladikavkaz

Vladimir appealed to our organisation from the military hospital, where he was convalescing after an incident that took place on the 15th February 2000. In Urus-Martan, on this date, a driver-mechanic of an armoured vehicle drove into the tent where conscripted soldiers were sleeping. In doing so, this soldier drove over Vladimir's pelvis and also that of another military servicemen in this unit, Roman Ribalchenko.

Vladimir received a fracture to the hip bone, a rupture in his urethra and disintegration in his sphincter and rectum. Roman has multiple fractures in his pelvic bone.

The reply of Major of Justice I.N. Filimonov, a senior assistant in the Military Prosecutor's Office of Military Unit 20102 (stationed in Grozny), from 22nd September 2000, stated that "On the given facts criminal proceedings have not been registered by the Military Prosecutor of Military Unit 20102. Information about the incident on 15th February 2000 has not come to our address. Where the treatment of Melnikov took place has similarly not been established".

The reply of Captain of Justice D.A. Rogov, a senior assistant in the Military Prosecutor's in the Vladikavkaz Garrison, the Deputy Head of Investigatory Department, dated 8th November 2000: "In accordance with the communication from the commander of Military Unit 37271, about the facts of the causation of corporal injury to Private V.I. Melnikov and Private R. V. Ribalchenko, with regards to Private Gutsan of the same unit, (criminal proceedings) are refused on the basis of article 5, point 4 of the Criminal Process Codex of the Russian Federation, that is, on account of an act of amnesty".

  • Viktor Nezhechkin, Mil. Unit 3526, Lebyazhe

Viktor was drafted into the army on 28th December 1999 to serve in Military Unit 3526 of the Interior Forces, stationed in Lebyazhe. He was prey to systemic beating and bullying by the senior conscripts. "They hit my ribs, my kidneys, my legs and my chest, near my heart." Defending his rights, Viktor left his unit. He was sent for an examination in the Bekhterev Institute of Scientific Investigation where they discovered fractures to his 9th and 10th right ribs and his 7th and 8th leg ribs. Viktor sent a declaration and all the relevant medical documents to the 53rd military prosecutor in St Petersburg. The answer from the prosecutor's office: "As regards unsanctioned mutual relations with him (Nezhechkin), I refuse to instigate criminal proceedings on the basis of Article 5 Point1 of the Criminal Process Codex of the Russian Federation".

  • Sergei Shalayev, Mil. Unit 01375, Mga

After a month of service in Military Unit 01375 of the Railway Forces, Sergei began to experience systematic beating from the older conscripts because he wouldn't bring money demanded by them. On one occasion during the beatings, some-one came up behind Sergei and stabbed him twice in the back with a knife. Medical help was refused. Sergei was forced to leave his military unit. He was investigated by an independent doctor and on the demands of his family, he was dispatched to military hospital. He was decommissioned in spring 2000. And nobody was called to account for the attacks in the barracks.

  • Denis Yunak, Mil. Unit 32755, Perm

Denis was commissioned into Military Unit 32755, based in Perm, on 18th December 1998. When Denis had been serving for over a year and a half, on 1st July 2000, he was beaten up in his barracks by other soldiers. Senior Lieutenant Popov was a spectator during this attack. As a direct result of this beating, Denis experienced cranial-cerebral trauma and concussion. He approached the military prosecutor's office in St Petersburg, he was dispatched to the Military medical commission and decommissioned on the condition of his health. The material from the affair was transferred from the St Petersburg prosecutor's office to the Perm military prosecutor's office. Until this time, not a single answer to the matter has been given.

  • Oleg Stafeyev, M/U 29483, Vladikavkaz

Oleg Stafeyev served in military unit 29483 in Vladikavkaz. (see also 2.3) Oleg wrote in his declaration the unpunished murder of a fellow conscript: "From here there is only one way out - that's Chechnya. Almost no-one wants to go there, but they don't ask us. They beat us until we sign the contract. One young man, just the same as me, was beaten to death. But they wrote to his parents that their son had accidentally stepped on an electric cable and died".

12 Disappearances

The army is not concerned about its recruits. The numerous unsolved disappearances prove the lack of respect for the lives of the "servants" of the Russian military authorities.

  • Ilnur Sakhapov, Mil. Unit 34035, Luga

Ilnur went missing from his unit in unexplained circumstances in May 2000. According to a communication from the commander of Ilnur's unit, his last known location was the military hospital where he was being treated for an alien body (needle) in his gastro-intestinal tract. The officers who drove to his home gave contradictory information about Ilnur's disappearance to his family.

  • Andrei Vesyelov, Mil. Unit 33491, Rzhyevka

From his mother's declaration: "Andrei left his unit in September 1999 as they had beaten him in the unit. The militsia took him away from home on 8th March 2000, where he is now, I don't know".

  • Andrei Kurochkin, Mil. Unit 29479, Novosibirsk

Andrei was conscripted into Military Unit 29479 of the Strategic Assignment Rocket Forces, based in Novosibirsk. On 17th November 1997 Andrei's mother received a letter from V. Polishuka, a captain serving in the same unit as her son. He communicated that Andrei had abandoned his unit on 22nd September 1997 as a result of "unsanctioned mutual relations". He named the sergeants who had taunted Andrei. Five of them have now been released and the others transferred to another unit. On 12th November criminal proceedings were instigated against Andrei for desertion from his unit. The search only amounted to constant pressure being exerted on Andrei's mother to hand over her son (daily visits, house-searches and threats from the militsia over several months). Not only was her son missing but she was being judged his co-conspirator.

On 17th March 1998 the criminal proceedings relating to unsanctioned attitudes against Andrei were ceased due to the non-existence of the facts of a crime. As before, pressure was exerted on Andrei's mother but measures in the search for Andrei were not undertaken.

Until this time, Andrei has still not been found.

  • Murat Mestoyev, Mil. Unit 2139, Vyborg

Murat comes from Ingushetia but he was drafted into a unit far away from home - Military Unit 2139, stationed in Vyborg near the border with Finland. An extract from a letter that Murat wrote to his family: "From the first days of my service, I have felt that they are offended by me and treat me badly, call me "sensitive". The sergeants gave the command to other soldiers to beat up us, the Ingushetians. Fights have often started up". Murat had a pregnant wife at home, as well as his mother, who had already been through 2 heart-attacks. In March 2001 Murat found out from a letter that his wife was in a bad way. He was not sent on leave. On 31st March Murat disappeared. The unit commander is claiming that he voluntarily left his unit. Criminal proceedings have been instigated against Murat. Until this date, Murat's location is not known.

13 Death casualties

This chapter provides the cases of those young men who endured the above mentioned means of torture and are no longer here to testify. They died due to the harsh conditions in the barracks, due to the inhuman and degrading treatment of fellow-soldiers or officers. They died, because the Russian Army command cannot take and does not want to take responsibility for their human resources.
  • Alexei Andryushenko † , Mil. Unit 67616, Kamenka

Alexei was commissioned into Military Unit 67616, stationed in Kamenka in the Leningrad region, on 20th November 2000.

From the testament of an eye-witness: "On the night of 16th to 17th February (2001) I was a witness to the beating and moral humiliation of A Andryushenko and Vasilkov..." In the witness statement the names of the torturers and the details of the attack are given. Alexei was forced to do a strip-tease, to imitate sex, to stand on an upturned stool. They struck his chest with their fists and then tortured him like "a dried crocodile" (This means tying the victim's feet and hands to either end of a bed-frame and forcing him to suspend himself by placing lighted candles or sharp objects below his body). On 17th February 2001 Alexei was found hanged. The medical assessment discovered signs of a struggle but the investigator is insisting on the version of suicide. Case closed.

  • Daniil Vipov † , Mil. Unit 20004 Volgograd

Daniil served in the staff of military unit 20004, stationed in Khankala in the Chechen Republic. At 7.30pm on 15th February 2001 the Military Commissariat in Volgograd reported that Danila had died: "The driver, 2 captains and Private D. P. Vipov were blown up in their military vehicle by a landmine. Everyone perished". Over the three day period after 15th February, conflicting information about Daniil's death was sent to his relatives: "blown up by a landmine", "killed by a sniper", "suicide". Witness statements about his death are dated 5th February 2001 - "military injury" - but they only reported the death on 15th February.

On 16th February 2001 officials rang from Rostov-on-Don to communicate that the corpse had not been identified. On 18th February 2001 when Daniil's brother was identifying the corpse, he paid attention to the fact that there was a trace of a firearms' wound under his lower lip. Not one of the officials could explain where this trace of a firearms' wound had come from. Then Daniil's brother began to ask around the soldiers in the unit. They told him that Daniil had been shot by his fellow military servicemen who were on guard.

A repeat examination was only carried out after a month of stubborn and protracted demands, demands made by both the family and the organisation, demands which encountered explicit resistance from the prosecutor's office. They discovered that Daniil had died from this firearms' wound. "It has been preliminarily established that the death of D. P. Vipov came about as a result of the lawless actions of Private I. A. Gysakov, m.u. 20004". Criminal proceedings have since been instigated.

  • Maxim Veresov † , Mil. Unit 54006 Luga

Maxim Veresov was drafted into the army on 28th June 2000. From his mother's declaration: "On 11/01/01, at about 23.00, they phoned me and said that Maxim had run away from his unit. At 17.00 on 12/01/01 they communicated to me that my son had hanged himself. In agreement with the medical conclusion, my son's death had come about as a result of suicide.

On the day of the funeral, both myself and those who had come to the funeral saw injuries on the flesh of my son's body: the right arm was covered with bruises, his mouth was half-open and it could be seen that a tooth was beaten in, there was a bruise on his lip. The right temple and ear were of a dark-blue colour. The right side of the face was swollen. These were pronounced signs of battery."

The response from the military prosecutor of Novgorod Garrison: "On 11/03/01 criminal proceedings for the death of your son were ceased... on account of the absence of the condition of a crime". The facts, narrated in the declaration made by Maxim's mother, have not been verified as procedure requires.

  • Maxim Psaryev † , Mil. Unit 39985 Lekhtusi

Maxim's father was a former military man and so, when his son was conscripted in June 1999, he wanted him to serve in an elite unit. He arranged it so that Maxim went into Military Unit 39985 of the Strategic Assignment Rocket Forces. In the unit Maxim clashed with the system of extortion and torture. Maxim had really wanted to serve and to advance up the ranks - he wanted to settle into the army but he was unlucky on that front. He simply could not reconcile himself to the fact that senior conscripted servicemen demanded money, food, cigarettes and items of clothing from him and other soldiers so that they could have a meeting with their relatives, a temporary release, even a conferment of rank. The senior conscripts establish these rules under the indulgence of the officers. Maxim often wrote about this in letters to his nearest and dearest; he also openly testified to the commanders of the sub-division. On one occasion they demanded 600 roubles from Maxim. He begged his father for this money. Maxim's father, in indignation, informed the company command about the existing system of extortion and demanded that he sort out the situation and protect his son. After this, the attitude to Maxim in the company became much worse: he met with an open hostility from the senior conscripts and incomprehension from the officers.

On 6th June 2000 Maxim was standing on guard. At 17.40 shots were heard from an automatic machine gun and Maxim was found with several bullet wounds. The result of the inquest was suicide. Maxim's parents were not acquainted with the results of the medical assessment. An examination of the crime scene has led to serious doubts regarding the official version of the inquest. However, on 1st September 2000 criminal proceedings concerning Maxim's death were closed due to the absence of criminal events.

14 Fascism in the Russian Army

When young men are conscripted into the Russian army, they often find themselves stationed a long way from home (being Russia, we are talking about thousands of kilometres in many cases). These boys befriend those from their home region, those with whom they have something in common. This is only natural behaviour. Over the last few years, however, this "home-bond" has mutated and become a serious source of tension within the military units. Your ethnic origin, the place where you call home - these are markers for how you will treat or be treated by others. It is a new shift in the caste-system, a new way in which power and influence is distributed. Specifically, tension clusters around one particular racial division: Caucasian or non-Caucasian.

For the most part, according to the testaments of those who have appealed to the organisation, it is the Caucasian conscripts who are bullying the non-Caucasian conscripts. Examples do of course exist to the contrary but the usual picture is that those who are drafted out of the Northern Caucasus region are allowed to become unofficial chiefs of the army barracks. Their violence and extortion now exists in tandem with "dedovshina" in many units, although Caucasian soldiers may be favoured from the moment they arrive and therefore avoid the usual rituals of humiliation.

As a result of the way in which the officers allow their conscripts to be beaten up and bullied by those from the North Caucasus, these same conscripts walk away from their 2 years in the army with a sickened hatred for those from the Northern Caucasus. Ethnic hatred and resentment has been a central part of their army experience - for 2 years, some of the most important years in their maturing process, these boys learn to fear and loathe on the basis of skin colour. It is understandable, therefore, that these young boys simply cannot differentiate between their bullies and anyone else with the same skin colour. Understandable but not acceptable.

Our files are filled with generalised expressions of racial contempt for those from the Caucasus. This is just one of many examples from a recent declaration by a deserter:

"Unsanctioned relations from my colleagues of Dagestanian nationality, bullying, moral humiliation. After the following beating, I ended up in military hospital with pneumonia on the very same day. On the way back from hospital I was afraid of reprisals and ran away". Another example comes from a boy's letter to his parents in which he has scrawled a number of graphic pictures expressing his pent-up fear and spite. He has been bullied in his unit and describes his bullies thus: "You remember that I talked about Dagis. But I didn't know that there's something worse than Dagis, even worse than Dagis". And just read Alexei Popovich's letter to his parents (in chapter 10 "Catastrophic Health Situation in the Russian Army"): "The unit is three barracks with one canteen, where there are no boundaries, where the "Chernomazis" and the "Khachikis" beat us up!" And in this case it is a highly intelligent, articulate man using such abusive terms.

One has to consider why the officers do not stamp down on this bias of power - why should they encourage the Caucasian conscripts to run amok in their units? The answer is simple, subtle and very sinister. During war-time, is hatred of the enemy not exactly what Russia would wish to foster in its soldiers? By allowing the Caucasian soldiers to bully the majority, to beat up the "pure Russian" soldiers, they are fostering a spirit of revenge in their conscripts. These boys are suddenly happy to be sent off to Chechnya because there they can exact revenge on all Caucasians for the personal humiliation that they have suffered at the hands of a few.

Of course, some of these conscripts are not actually sent on active duty to Chechnya. Instead they take these attitudes home with them after their military service finishes. Maybe they tell their families or friends what awful things happened to them in service, and in doing so, either intentionally or unintentionally incite racial hatred against Caucasians in those they are speaking to. Maybe they do not speak about what happened and simply bear their personal humiliation in silence, racism just leaching out in the expressions they speak. Either way, these boys will not receive any counselling or advice and if they did not get to fight in Chechnya, they may actively search out the chance for revenge that circumstances denied them. However they deal with their experiences, one can be sure that the racial hatred that these conscripts have gained from their military service will remain with them for the rest of their lives and may well be communicated to their children.

We see examples of this spreading fascist attitude in the seminars and schools which we hold in the premises of the organisation. Every week there are two Schools of Human Rights "Let's protect our sons" and 2 follow-up seminars. The schools are attended by about 150 civilians; the seminars have between 40-80 people in attendance. This means that the organisation has about 400 ordinary people of all ages and backgrounds passing through its doors every week. Almost without exception, at every seminar and school, we hear racist comments coming up from the floor. Sharp, spiteful, fearful comments about "blacks", "Dagis". It is clear that people have been highly affected by the state propaganda machine, by the negative reports about Chechen terrorists that have been published and broadcast in Russian national and local press since the beginning of the first Chechen war. Yet the racial hatred we hear is not just aimed against Chechens, it is against Dagestanis and other ethnic groups from the North Caucasus region. And this is a result of the horror-stories that people hear about, or have themselves experienced, in the military barracks.

For those who have been to Chechnya, their education into racism can be twofold: bullying in the barracks and then a chance to exact revenge in the war-zone itself. Chapter 11 in this document bears witness to the total impunity of many who commit crimes during military service. Imagine the situation amongst the units stationed in the war-zone itself, where it is even harder for an investigator to determine who fired the first bullet or whether that dead body was a rebel sniper or just an innocent bystander. With the FSB now running military operations in Chechnya, cleaning up the army's mess, one has to wonder just how many men are returning their active tour of duty, guility of murder, rape or bribery, and never being punished. A consequence of impunity is that the criminal does not even believe he has broken the law, violated another's rights. This man is then released back into society, believing that he is all-powerful, that he can do what he wants to whomsoever he wants, especially if they look like a Chechen. The effects of Chechen wars are not localized, they spread through-out Russia as conscripts return to their homes. And ulitimately this is not just a problem for Russia, it should be an international concern. If Russian society becomes racist to its core, it is not just those in break-away or former Soviet republics who will experience the effects.

This fascist attitude already extends to every area of life within Russia. It is common policy, for example, that those with non-Slavic features, non-white colouring, are the ones continually and incessantly stopped by the militsia for document searches. The general xenophobia fostered under Communism may well be disappearing but it is being replaced by a more pervasive, more pernicious racism. A more specific target. Russian society has reached a point, now, at the start of the 21st century, where it is morally and physically dangerous to walk around with the wrong colour skin. Most worryingly, it is the younger generation who cherish these fascist opinions most strongly of all and what does that say for the future?

15 Our concerns and requests

As a non-governmental human rights organisation it is our duty and our job to inform the governmental structures and civilian society about the problems that threaten stability in our country and in other countries, especially in Europe.

Therefore:

We strongly ask the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), the Council of Europe (COE), the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OVSE), the European Commission (EC) and European Parliament (EP) and European governments to keep the seriousness of the human rights violations in the Russian army in mind when discussing economic or political issues.

We strongly ask the UNCHR, the UNHCR, the COE, the OVSE, the EC and EP, European governments and NGOs put pressure on the Russian government to stop the war in Chechnya and to develop a diplomatic, political solution for this republic.

We strongly ask the President of the Russian Federation, the State Duma, the Federation Council and the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to stop the war in Chechnya and to develop a diplomatic, political solution for this republic.

We strongly ask the UNCHR, the UNHCR, the COE, the OSCE, the EC and EP to monitor the military events in Chechnya.

We strongly ask the President of the Russian Federation, the State Duma, the Federation Council and the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to quicken the decision-making process on army reforms, and to transform the Russian army into a professional one.

We strongly ask the President of the Russian Federation, the State Duma, the Federation Council and the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to control the political and financial movements of the Russian army and its advisers.

We strongly ask the UNCHR, the COE, the OVSE, the European Institutions, the European governments and NGOs to control the political and financial movements of the Russian army and its advisers.

We strongly ask the President of the Russian Federation, the State Duma, the Federation Council and the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, the European Institutions, the European governments and NGOs to elaborate joint programmes on training Russian army officers, including human rights education and conflict resolution.

The "Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg" would like to thank the following people for collecting the material, for writing, proof-reading and editing the presentation: Ella Polyakova, co-chair of the SMSP, Elena Vilenskaya, co-chair of the SMSP, Elena Smirnova, member of the SMSP, Annemarie Gielen, member of the SMSP (Belgium)Sophie Walker, volunteer at the SMSP (UK)and all the conscripts, recruits and their relatives who made this presentation possible

[1] Levina, L.I. Prof. (ed.), Teenager medicine: a guideline for doctors, Special'naja literatura, Saint Petersburg, 1999 - (title translated from Russian)
[2] The case-history of Artem Klimov (a pseudonym as he is still in danger) can be found under "Show trials"
[3] Last name known to the Organisation, Georgij would like to stay anonymous
[4] Name has been changed because he is still at risk - his father forced him to return to his unit after he deserted.

[5] Name has been changed for his own security

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