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Contract soldiers from Murmansk being forced to go to Ukraine (7x7)

posted 20 Feb 2015, 23:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Feb 2015, 23:26 ]
16 February 2015

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group 

Original source: «7x7»

Military personnel of a unit in Pechengsky district, Murmansk region, have been given an order to prepare for maneuvers to begin in the north of the country and continue in the south, in Rostov region. Military commanders also informed the soldiers they might have to cross the state border with Ukraine. However, no official order was issued. The soldiers recorded a sound clip of an oral address by the unit commander. The soldiers applied to the human rights organization Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg for legal advice, and appealed to the Presidential Human Rights Council for explanations.

Sergei Krivenko, member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, chair of the Council’s standing committee on civil-military relations, coordinator of the non-government initiative "Citizen and Army", and member of Moscow Helsinki Group, paid an urgent visit to Murmansk region, and on his return talked about what he had learned in an interview with 7x7.

"It has nothing to do with any outspoken demand or a refusal by contract servicemen to perform their military duty. Everyone who came to speak with me expressed a willingness to continue their military service. What is not clear today is why military commanders of a certain unit allow themselves to talk to their subordinates in this way, to make statements and give orders that go against the words of the President of the country! In the current climate, this is not unacceptable," Sergei Krivenko said.

Sergei Krivenko visited the Sputnik garrison located in Pechengsky district, Murmansk region, and met with the soldiers. In his presence, twenty people signed a formal appeal to the Human Rights Council asking that the situation concerning “unofficial orders" be clarified, and that an assessment of the actions of the commander be made.

“It’s not important how many people have added their names to this statement. In this case, a claim by even one person about the commander’s behavior would be enough”, said Sergei Krivenko.

However, Irina Paykacheva, a human rights activist in Murmansk, who also participated in the meeting with the soldiers, believes that this factor is important. According to her, initially 23 people asked for help. She suspects that the military service personnel are being put under pressure. The sound recording confirms her suspicions to a certain degree, where the commander is heard threatening that all those who approach the military authorities with questions about the tour of duty would be dismissed (for non-compliance with contract conditions), face prosecution (for conspiracy), and damage their reputations.

“Several people told us that they have decided to cancel their contracts. Some want to continue their service, but only on the basis of formal, official relations with the military authorities. But other "hostages" of the system - many of them are bound by loans or "military mortgage" - have no choice but to continue in military service”, Irina Paykacheva explained. “Nevertheless we are very pleased that Sergei Krivenko found an opportunity to come almost immediately. People feel that they have support.”

The human rights activists set out all the details and evidence of the case in official letters to the Defense Ministry and the Chief Military Prosecutor.

“The official time period for consideration of such appeals is one month, but we have established good contacts, and a special agreement has been reached with the Ministry of Defence on the review of the most urgent matters, so we expect to receive answers in the next few days”, Sergei Krivenko said.

Translated by Faina Babintseva