Thursday, January 22, 2009

Relatives of dead Russian soldier to sue Defense Ministry

21/ 01/ 2009

YEKATERINBURG, January 21 (RIA Novosti) - The relatives of a Russian soldier who died of pneumonia earlier this month in the Urals after being made to stand in freezing temperatures said on Wednesday they would sue the Defense Ministry.

Anton Yumatov, 24, died on January 16 in a military hospital. Another 94 service personnel at the Yelan training center in Yekaterinburg were also diagnosed with pneumonia.

His relatives claim that Anton and other soldiers were forced to stand outside their barracks at night in minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures by a "drunken" superior.

"We intend to sue the Russian Defense Ministry to prove that we are right. We will go all the way," the dead soldier's brother said, adding that Anton had not even been supplied with water while in hospital.

"Not long before his death, he wrote a note - 'Mum, buy me two bottles of mineral water," said Grigory Yumatov.

A total of 45 soldiers from the training center are currently in hospital. A criminal case has been launched and a number of military officials have been suspended from duty.

Some 100 military personnel were also hospitalized with the disease in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea. Sanitary checks are due to be carried out at all military units of Russia's Armed Forces to prevent further outbreaks of the disease.

The Russian Army is notorious for its poor living standards and cruel hazing practices. Hazing, a tradition stretching back to the Soviet era, is just one of the problems faced by the average conscript in the Russian Army. Russia's defence ministry confirmed recently a report that there were 471 service personnel deaths due to non-combat causes in 2008. Over half of these, 231, were suicides.

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