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  Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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Russian army conscript died from cold weather exposure
Military prosecutors opened an inquiry Thursday after a young Russian army conscript died and more than 80 others caught pneumonia after being transported to their base in the Far East without adequate warm clothing. During their transport by air to the Far East city of Magadan, where they were to be stationed, the conscripts were kept outside in the cold in mid-December with inadequate clothing during a stopover in Novosibirsk, NTV television said. Temperatures in the Siberian city plunged as low as minus 10 degrees Centigrade (14 degrees Fahrenheit). Around a hundred soldiers were being transferred to the Far East after being recruited to serve in the border guards service, which is under the authority of the Federal Security Service intelligence agency (FSB, ex-KGB). When they arrived in Magadan most of them had to be hospitalised suffering from pneumonia. One soldier died on January 2 and 55 are still in hospital in a stable condition while another 25 are under medical care in their bases, the deputy health director for the Magadan region, Tamara Isayeva, told ITAR-TASS. The FSB press service said the dead man, Vladimir Berezin, had been recruited in the Moscow region on December 3 and that more than 80 soldiers had been hospitalised in total. Earlier reports said that 50 soldiers had been affected. Russian President Vladimir Putin in televised comments called the incident "criminal" and said that it must be "fully investigated" and the "guilty punished, which will be done." Speaking at a meeting of FSB top brass, he confirmed that the draftees had been "exposed to the wind and frost" and "had to be hospitalised." The country's prosecutor general Vladimir Ustinov will personally take charge of the investigation, a prosecution spokesman told Moscow Echo radio. The spokesman said that Ustinov had ordered the chief military prosecutor to establish the responsibility of all officials who had accompanied the soldiers in question and examined them medically on their arrival. The Russian defence ministry laid the blame on the FSB. The army's top press spokesman, Vitaly Gusak, quoted by Interfax, said that "after their transfer to ministries and agencies where they are to serve, it is these bodies which are responsible for their health." According to Moscow Echo, the FSB will participate in the inquiry. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, conscripts in the demoralized and underfunded Russian military have often gone without proper clothing and equipment and are also victims of vicious hazing. Some 400,000 youngsters are drafted each year, but according to an analysis by the Carnegie Moscow Center, as many as 100,000 dodge conscription. Last November, the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch in a 40-page report denounced "systematic" violations of Russian conscripts' rights resulting from "inadequate food ... (and) deplorable health conditions."
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