Another week brings two more horrible stories about senseless brutality in the Russian army. This time one of the victims is 19-year old Radik Habirov from Kazan, who was brought in to a local hospital weighing only 65 pounds and is now in a coma. This is the worst case of documented abuse in the Russian Army since the widely reported case of Pvt. Sychev six months ago. Last week in Moscow more details emerged from closed hearings about the extent of Pvt. Sychev's mutilation. Even Army doctors accustomed to seeing scars and broken bones from abuse have been shocked at how severely Pvt. Sychev was tortured by his comrades.
Army doctors had tried to cover up the crime, blaming the loss of Sychev's legs on a pre-existing medical condition, but a civilian panel of medical examiners concluded that Sychev was gang raped in the barracks while taped to his bunk. After being sodomized repeatedly, he was forced to do squats, then made to hold in the squatting position for hours, until he lost circulation in his legs. By the time he was brought to a hospital, doctors could only save Sychev's life by amputating his legs and genitals.
Warning: Graphic Photos in the Extended Post
When Radik Habirov was delivered to a Kazan hospital, neither military physicians nor officers were eager to explain to his father what had happened in military division # 96504. Marat Habirov, Radik's brother told journalists right away what had happened -- "dedovshina" (torture from older soldiers and officers) is the reason his brother is fighting for his life. Saitgaray Habirov, Radik's father, raised both children on his own. When it was Radik's turn to face the army draft, a military physical found him to be in excellent health.
Radik had played sports all his life, and planned to get his education at the Kazan University of Aviation. Radik's older brother had been conscripted a few years before, and told him that while army life was very hard, it was better to get your service over with as soon as possible and get on with your life. Radik listened to this advice and didn't try to pay bribes or dodge the draft.
The last letter Radik's family received was mailed at the end of November 2005. At that time he was moved to another military base, with the promise that he would soon see some action in Chechnya. Shortly after the transfer, Radik's father was told that his son had disappeared; local police were checking his father's apartment to see if Radik would show up there. On February 28, Radik was found in a local hospital, weighing only 65 pounds and in a coma, after he had attemped suicide by hanging himself from a rope he tied from bed sheets.
When Radik's father sought justice, he went to the local draft board. Members of the draft commission laughed at the old man and advised him to go and demand justice at the military base. In response, the base command issued a short official statement, declaring that "Private Habirov had no known psychological problems while in service which could have led to him committing suicide."
Today Radik only reacts to pain and loud claps, and sounds that remind him of punches. Radik's father is desperate, but believes that his beloved son will wake up soon to tell his story. Pvt. Habirov's family has received no compensation of any kind from the state, so it's just Radik's father and babushka caring for the boy at home. Radik's Dad still believes that Defense Minister Ivanov will notice their family tragedy and finally punish the sadists who maimed his son and so many other boys.
There is no good reason why a Russian government awash in oil money cannot stop this brutality, and make the Army an institution the country can be proud of again, rather than a continuing source of shame.
Here are some short updates on documented cases of army abuse that we haven't previously covered:
June 28, 2006 -- the body of 18 year-old Dmitry Vshivtsev was shipped back to his hometown in Sverdlovskaya Oblast. Dmitry served on the Kuril Islands for six months and then shot himself in the head, after he could no longer cope with torture from his senior comrades. His family is trying to find justice but no arrests have been announced yet.
June 14, 2006 -- a 19 year old private was beaten and then thrown off a train by his comrades, leaving him for dead on the railroad tracks. The senior officer in charge of the re-location of the soldiers didn't notice the private's disappearance and reported the unit re-location as "successful". Railroad workers happened to find the private's broken body before the next train crushed him, and now his mother, while caring for his multiple injuries and broken bones and demanding justice.
Our goal here at Russia Blog is to show everyday Russian reality not only through analysis of today's news, but also through making the English-speaking world aware of the tragedies ordinary Russians face in the countryside. You can read our previous articles on this topic here:
Radik's photo after being drafted
Radik in the hospital today...
Radik's army identity papers
Private Sychev at a Moscow hospital