Private Alexandr Sivyakov in court
Moscow - today a court ruled in the mutilation case of Private Andrei Sychev, who was beaten and sexually abused by his comrades at the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy on December 31, 2005. As a result of his injuries, Andrei Syvhev had both his legs and genitals amputated earlier this year.
The prosecution of this case was very political and highly publicized. Russian army officials were caught trying to cover up for the guilty NCOs and division officers at the base where Pvt. Sychev was abused. Several officers misrepresented the entire story, claiming that the private was a poor soldier and that they were not aware of any abuse taking place. President Putin was personally outraged by the case and asked the court to find and prosecute the guilty parties. The case has created a major push in the Duma to speed up desperately needed reforms in the Russian army.
Private Alexandr Sivyakov was convicted of torturing Private Sychev, and was sentenced to four years in prison. Both prosecutors and the defense argue that this sentence was too lenient for the crime of maiming a young man for life. The victim's family is demanding harsher punishment and calling for Pvt. Sychev's commanding officers to be brought to justice as well. The defense argues that Pvt. Sivyakov was the scapegoat for the negligence of the officers, and could not be held entirely responsible for the actions of his comrades who mutilated Pvt. Sychev.
Three more people may face prosecution in this case. The first is a senior lieutenant Bogomolov, who was the ranking officer on duty at Chelyabinsk Tank Academy barracks on New Year's Eve, and claims to have slept through the entire night of torture. Another senior supervisor (a Major, name not released) may be charged with negligence for ignoring Pvt. Sychev's critical condition on January 4th, four days after the soldier was tortured, when it was too late to save his lower body and almost too late to save the young soldier's life. The last person who faces charges is Sergeant Yevgeni Ulyanov, who witnessed the brutality, but did nothing to stop it.
A more senior commander who could face charges is General Viktor Sidorov, Director of the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy, where the torture took place. General Sidorov, however, has avoided criminal charges thus far - the case against him "got stuck" in the office of the military prosecutors, according to officials. Now, the General's prosecution may be a question of time with the political pressure from human rights organizations and Russian citizens. If pushed hard enough, it is hard to imagine how the General would be able to avoid facing charges, but again, Russian people usually prefer to mind their own business and seldom participate in civil society - so long as things are fine in their homes.
Both sides in this first prosecution from the Sychev case will probably appeal the sentence, and more prosecutions of perpetrators of dedovshina are likely to follow.
Photos of the trial, Andrei Sychev in hospital and the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy by Reuters and ITAR-TASS: