MOSCOW – Prosecutors charged a Russian soldier Wednesday in connection with the death of a conscript who was allegedly beaten by two drunken officers and left overnight in a dog kennel.
Monday's death of Pvt. Sergei Sinkonen from injuries inflicted two weeks ago again highlighted troubles in the Russian armed forces, which suffer from poor funding, low morale and vicious abuse, particularly of conscripts.
The Defense Ministry, meanwhile, announced that the commander on duty at the Plesetsk cosmodrome, where the beating allegedly occurred, had been dismissed as a result of the incident.
Maj. Gen. Konstantin Chmarov, the deputy commander who was in charge of the cosmodrome at the time, was dismissed, Defense Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov said in televised comments.
The Prosecutor General's office said that Cpl. Vadim Kalinin had been charged with deliberate bodily harm resulting in death and with exceeding his authority in connection with the Aug. 15 beating. An officer, Capt. Viktor Bal, is still under investigation, the office said in a statement.
Russian news media said Sinkonen and another conscript had come upon the officers celebrating a wedding not far from their unit at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northwestern Russia. The officers thought the conscripts had fled and beat them with army belts, and put Sinkonen in a kennel with guard dogs, where he was found the next morning in serious condition. There was no indication he was injured by the dogs.
The other conscript, who was locked in an empty kennel overnight, also was hospitalized but released a week later, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.
The Defense Ministry said Minister Anatoly Serdyukov took personal control of the investigation, in what appeared to an attempt to head off the kind of outrage military officials faced last year after a conscript was forced to squat for hours. Gangrenous infections later forced doctors to amputate the conscript's legs and genitals.
President Vladimir Putin's defense chief at the time, Sergei Ivanov, initially suggested the incident could not have been serious because he hadn't heard of it. Ivanov, now a first deputy prime minister and a leading candidate to succeed Putin next year, faced criticism over his response.
In another highly unusual move, Serdyukov expressed "sincere condolences" to the parents and relatives of the dead soldier, and promised to take "harsh measures ... including discharging" those responsible for the latest incident.
Hundreds of conscripts and other soldiers die outside of combat each year in hazing incidents.