Russian Soldier Loses Eye, Leg as Slave Laborer

A Russian serviceman lost his leg and eye while allegedly being forced to work as a slave laborer — the latest evidence of rampant abuse in the nation's armed forces, news reports said Friday.

The daily Gazeta said that Andrei Rudenko, 24, suffered the injuries in a road accident while working for a businessman in Chita, a southern Siberian city about 3,700 miles east of Moscow.

The commander of Rudenko's unit allegedly sold him to the businessman for $1,300, the newspaper quoted Rudenko's lawyer, Irina Khrunova, as saying.

She said Rudenko had been forced to live in a truck and do various jobs for the businessman, according to Gazeta. The newspaper said Rudenko was in a coma for 13 days in a hospital in Chita after the suffering accident two months ago.

Officials at the Russian Defense Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

Ekho Moskvy radio station quoted the Agora rights group as saying military prosecutors in Chita had launched a criminal investigation against the officer in charge of Rudenko's unit.

It quoted Vitaly Cherkasov, the head of the Chita human rights center, as saying Rudenko would be flown to Moscow's elite Burdenko military hospital for treatment.

The hospital has been treating another soldier who had his legs and genitals amputated after being beaten and tortured by fellow servicemen in a case that shocked the nation, highlighting widespread bullying of young conscripts in the military. His main tormentor was sentenced last month to four years in prison.

All Russian men between 18 and 27 are required to serve at least two years in the armed forces, though many avoid the unpopular draft through medical or educational exemptions or bribery.