Russia Butchers its Soldiers, Literally
by Yuri Borodyanksy
June 7, 2010
Translated from the Russian by La Russophobe Staff
(as always, corrections to the Russian translation are welcome)
In the family video recording of Roman Suslov (pictured, left) saying his goodbyes to his family and friends on the railway platform, the young man’s eyes betray no alarm. On the faces of his parents, his sisters, his beloved wife clutching their infant son, there is not the slightest hint of what would happen four days later.
The young man was to travel some 5,000 kilometers from his home in Omsk to Khabarovsk, and from there go onward by bus to his posting in a motor rifle unit in the city of Bikin. He was not particularly eager to join the army, but nor was he seeking to avoid his obligation.
He was better prepared than many of his peers to endure the hardships and privations of army life, being an experienced boxer and wrestler. He was also gainfully employed at the lone successful local industrial enterprise, having studied at the local chemical and mechanical college. He also found time to participate in amateur theater productions.
He had big plans for his future. “Well, when I get back from the army, he said to me,” relates his mother Tatiana Suslov “we will build a house and all live there happily ever after.” He had just married his wife Oksana the prior June 25th, and then the draft notice arrived.
One can judge the closeness of their relationship by the number of calls and text messages they exchanged during the four days they were separated. He called his wife two hours after boarding the train, and spoke to her as they always did. A stream of text messages followed with details on his encounters with his fellow recruits. “All right, met with the guys” and “in the car, 30 recruits.”
But when she called him at 10 pm that night, she heard a desperate whisper: “I either get stabbed or killed here.” That’s what he said, word for word, swears Oksana. “I asked him: ‘Who’s going to kill you?’” says Oksana, and he answered: “The Lieutenant . . .” Oskana continues: “It was hard to hear him, his battery was running low and they wouldn’t let him charge it.” The connection was lost. She tried to call back 15 minutes later without success. A while later he called using the cell phone of his friend Josef. He said they took away his food, water and cigarettes, separated him from the others and escort him even to the bathroom. Then the call ended suddenly.
She called back, and Josef answered. He said he didn’t know what was happening and everybody was terrified. Then the connection was lost again.
On the morning of May 23rd, Tatiana Suslova received a call from the commander of the Bikin Garrison, who informed her tersely: “Your son has committed suicide by hanging himself in a public bathroom at a railway station.”
The Discovery and the Coverup
Alma Bukharbayeva received a similar message from the same garrison several years ago. Novaya Gazeta wrote about the death of her son on July 24, 2006. Her son was sent home in a sealed zinc coffin with orders not to unseal it, but Mrs. Bukharbayeva ignored the order and had her son autopsied. The autopsy revealed a fractured nose, bruises on the forehead and the marks of handcuffs on his wrists. There were no indications that he had been strangled, contradicting the claims of his commanding officer, which had been made in writing.
And the body of the young man was missing several vital internal organs. Several independent witnesses confirmed it.
The incision made to remove the organs was not the type that would have been used by a medical examiner, and it is not standard practice to examine internal organs in the case of a suicide. Despite this, a request to the military prosecutor’s office for an investigation was refused.
Two weeks after the young man’s funeral, the Garrison Commander sent the family a telegram which read: “An error has occurred, which I regret. Your son Marat Bukharbayev was killed in the course of military service.” There was no further explanation.
Marat was the fifth Omskite to die in Bikin under mysterious circumstances. Novaya Gazeta reported on the fate of the sixth on April 12, 2007. Alexei Aparin was found hanging from a noose made from a belt with a large bruise on his head, resulting from a strong blow with a heavy object. The investigatory documents were full of dark inconsistencies but the parents were not able to disprove the suicide.
Sewn with the Same Thread
According to the organization of soldier’s parents known as “Memorial,” Roman Suslov was the seventh. The original version of his death, too, was erroneous. Gus mother spoke with Lieutenant Glushakov of his barracks on the same day she learned of his death and was told that Roman had not hanged himself in the toilet at a station but rather in the railway car itself.
The mother asked the officer how it had happened and why but the officer did not know. He said that Roman had been well-behaved and had a made good impression on him. Roman had not caused any trouble or received any. Everything was just fine and then suddenly . . . The mother asked the officer whether his conscience bothered him, and the officer answered that there were 30 young men in his company and he could not keep track of all of them.
This reporter called Glushakov for himself. The officer responded that he had already answered questions from the authorities and challenged me for not believing the official version of events.
The investigation into the death of Roman Suslov was carried out by the Military Investigation Department of the Russian Army, Far East District. It was considered a suicide. According to preliminary information, the cause of death was “mechanical asphyxia.” Investigator Vladimir Lymar stated: “No injuries were found on the body of the deceased recruit.”
Roman’s coffin arrived in Omsk on Saturday, May 29th. His parents conveyed the coffin to the city of Kalachinsk pursuant to an agreement with a family friend who was a forensic surgeon. On Roman’s body were discovered the absence of any indication of strangulation, the presence of multiple bruises on the face, none of which were mentioned in the Khaborovsk report, and a long suture from chin to groin (Novaya Gazeta has the photos), exactly like the one on Alma Bukharbayeva’s son.
There were also traces of injections on Roman’s fingers and elbow joints, which his relatives swear he did not have when he left home. There is of course no reason to perform blood tests on persons no longer alive, such tests are performed only on a living person, and there are injections of painkillers.
What’s Wrong with You?
When asked by Mrs. Bukharbayeva during the course of the investigation in Bikin why her son lacked internal organs when he was returned to her, the forensic expert responded: “What’s wrong with you, my dear woman? Don’t you know that on the black market a human kidney is worth at least $50,000?” Our investigation, reported at the time, revealed that 112 kidneys had been removed from the bodies of local residents in the Khabarovsk region without their families’ permission, and also removed had been adrenal glands and spleens. It was suspected that death had been caused by the removal in at least 56 cases, and 43 of the recipients had died. But there was, of course, plenty of money to hush up the scandal.
It is noteworthy how close the Bikin garrison is to the border with China, where internal organs are much more easily marketable than in most countries. The U.S. State Department has demanded that China investigate this market and take action to control it. Trade is particularly brisk in the organs of prisoners receiving capital punishment, and various websites openly advertise the availability of organs in China.
Records show that Private Suslov is hardly the first solider to “commit suicide” on the way to Khabarovsk. On June 29th of last year 21-year-old Alexander Mazhug was found in the toilet of a train near Chelyabinsk (incidentally, Suslov was found not far from the town of Birobidzhan). Mazhug’s family made a YouTube appeal to the authorities for an investigation, sure that he had been murdered.
On December 15, 2009, the body of a Russian draftee from Tuva was found on Chinese territory. The press spokesman for the Far East Military District, Andrei Metchenko, told reporters that charges had been filed against the draftee for desertion a few days earlier.
A Note from the Editors of Novaya Gazeta
On June 3, 2010, the families of the Omskite soldiers held a demonstration in front of the local military office. The parents demand justice for their children. They demand to know what happened, why, and that steps be taken to avoid recurrence.
You may say that the loss of seven young men is insignificant to the Russian army, and even less so to the country. And so it is, if we ignore the human dimension of each “private” tragedy. Individual people are becoming less and less important in our country with each passing day. That is our loss. That is why we believe that the Bikin Garrison must be investigated at the very highest levels by the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office and the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia. It is a case involving not only the Russian military, but Russian society as a whole.
A Note from the Translators
It goes without saying, but nonetheless we will say it, that to allow a thriving market in young people’s organs is to encourage the murder of those young people to harvest the organs, especially in a country where individual human life in virtually meaningless. Such is life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
For those who read Russian, the Novaya Gazeta web page contains a large number of comments, and growing.