< The Russian military says Ilya Gorbunov, 19, died when a tank he was driving rolled off a bridge. His sister says that a soldier from her brother's unit said Ilya died after being locked in a tank and suffocating.
By Yelizaveta Mayetnaya for RFE-RL, Mar 17, 2017
The Russian military says Ilya Gorbunov, 19, died when a tank he was driving rolled off a bridge. His sister says that a soldier from her brother's unit said Ilya died after being locked in a tank and suffocating.
At 10 a.m. on February 17, Russian draftee Arkady B. jumped out of a third-story window of his barracks outside Moscow. Doctors say it was a miracle that he survived, with multiple compression fractures, a concussion, and other injuries. They are optimistic that Arkady, who asked not to be identified for this article, will walk again after a few months of rehabilitation.
"They were squeezing money out of me," Arkady told RFE/RL. "They wanted 110,000 rubles ($1,860). Supposedly some things went missing -- a tent, some shoes, some sort of spare parts. They found a naïve idiot and pressured me hard."
Arkady's mother, Natasha, told RFE/RL that he had repeatedly reported widespread extortion in his unit to his division psychologist, but no action was taken.
"He called home several times and complained about the extortion," Natasha said. "He called on the 10th, 11th, and 12th of February, saying that if he didn't come up with 110,000 rubles, they would either put him in prison or force him to sign up for a stint as a volunteer soldier. He couldn't take the pressure, so he jumped out a window."
Arkady's story is hardly unique. Although the Russian government does not release statistics on crime in the military, reports of suicides and suspicious deaths in the armed forces are depressingly common. According to government figures, cases of extortion overall more than doubled between 2015 and 2016, and rights activists say cases inside the military are also on the rise.