Is it all right in the ‘best units of the President?
Ludmila I. Kozlova, resident of Kharkiv, turned to the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection and Kharkiv Union of soldiers mothers. Her son, Evgeniy V. Kozlov, serves in the army, in the first company of the National Guard of Ukraine (unit 2243). Mother asks to pay attention to illegal and criminal circumstances under which her son is serving. What follows is Ludmila I. Kozlovas letter. My son serves in the so-called ‘elite military unit under the circumstances of illegal and distasteful sort. One can single out several circumstances.
Unbearable dedovshchina. The younger soldiers are beaten without reason at any time of day and night in any place, even if the victim is standing on guard on the honorable place under the national flag and symbol of the state. Older servicemen demand them to get cigarettes, food and other commodities, which they have no money to buy and no capability to get in any proper way. The younger servicemen are set against each other, they are punished all for one, during medical examinations all traces of beating are explained like in a well-known film: ‘Slipped, fell, came to senses in plaster. All this happens because older servicemen — deds — bored by idleness (all the work for them is openly done by greenhorns) try to invent new moral and physical tortures for younger soldiers. Thus they breed worthy successors, who will revenge their offences on the next wave of greenhorns. This continues for each next shift of servicemen. Deds live like deserved criminals in concentration camp where the rest of convicts fulfil all their wishes and whims. I am sure that officers of all ranks in the unit, where my son serves, know about the situation, the more so that the unit is not numerous.
Very poor food. The food is monotonous, tasteless and badly nourishing. The soldiers often suffer from stomach aches, they get avitaminosis; as a result their wounds and even scratches do not heal. A work in the kitchen, given as a punishment, is really a punishment, because the chef is a reputed beast that can beat a soldier for the slightest mistake, to say nothing about the attempt to eat something. Sometimes deds take away the food of younger servicemen, or, on the contrary, stuff them with the boiling cereal.
Inadequate medical service. A soldier with high temperature is often sent to the watch, many soldiers have pneumonia, lymphadenitis, meningitis and other diseases which are hard to survive and which often result in future complications. In the unit even the elementary medical aid is inadequate: the tools are often not sterilized, soldiers seldom wash because of the lack of water. They do not want to give their things to the laundry, because in exchange they can get cast-off rags. Because disinfection is not done and the underclothes are not ironed, the soldiers suffer from lice, although they serve in peaceful time and live in stable conditions.
Theft flourishes in the company. The bed-stands are empty, since anything left in them disappear double quick. How is it possible to shave, to wash and to sew white collars, if the things we bring to our son immediately disappear. Even emblems with military symbols purchased by soldiers for their own money are cut off from their uniforms.
Colds came and soldiers freeze. Winter caps and less shabby jackets are given to them only for a watch outdoors, on guard towers. Others walk in berets and torn buttonless jackets. To put on something woolen under the jacket is forbidden: it contradicts the Articles of war. It is possible to buy a new uniform for ones own money, but few can afford it, and besides, where is the guarantee that the uniform will not betaken away by deds.
What I write is not fantasy. I saw all this with my own eyes, and I heard this from my son, his fellows and their parents.
My son did not try to dodge the military service. ‘If I must, then I shall, he said — ‘The army preparation will be useful in life. After the oath he was proud that he got into the elite company. He was ready to bear the training in the special troop, but he was not prepared to endure the disgrace. He certainly does not want to serve any more.
I met with the commanders of his company and battalion, with the indoctrination officer. They told me a lot of beautiful words, absolutely differing from the reality. I can prove all I said here and I can find many soldiers and their parents to confirm my arguments, although they are very afraid. But I have got tired to be afraid. My son was taken to the army, when he was a student and they did not ask his agreement or that of his parents. He had to perform his duty before his motherland, and he was ready to do it. So why, instead of battle, physical and moral training he had to endure humiliations of his spirit and body. I do not want him to desert or return from his service as a physical or moral invalid. He wants to serve normally, in the army, not in the prison.
I ask to transfer my son to another unit, if possible, nearer to his house. I know that a similar order has been issued. Not only my son suffers in his unit, there are many other sufferers. Pay attention to this ‘elite unit in order to make the National Guard of Ukraine be ‘the best units of the President.
PL commentary. We sent this letter to the commandment of the National Guard of Ukraine (NGU) in Kyiv. We were informed that now this unit is checked by representative of the NGU commandment. He has an order to consider the letter of L.Kozlova.
In several days the NGU commandment sacked the commander of the first company. This is not the first case when the NGU commandment very fast reacts to the information on dedovshchina. We hope that the situation in military unit 2243 will improve, because dedovshchina flourishes in the units where officers neglect their service duties and the commandment does not control officers. Dedovshchina is a catching disease, which the Ukrainian army inherited from the Soviet one. To get rid of this disease common actions are needed by officers, military prosecutors, public organizations and, certainly, soldiers and their parents.