war crimes in Ukraine

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Responsibility of the state before the parents of the servicemen perished in peace time

I. Sukhorukova, Kharkiv
Vladik Kharuta perished on 2 August 1986 during a training flight. It happened above the village Velyky Khutor of the Cherkassy oblast. His age was 18 years and 9 months.

From early boyhood he wanted to be a military pilot and did everything to realize his dream. At school he learned excellently and revealed capabilities to exact sciences. Friends called him ‘Professor’. He could easily enter any institute, but instead he went to a military pilot school. His first flight he made when he was 17 years and 10 months.

Everybody, who knew Vladik — teachers, classmates, army fellows and commanders — recollect him with love and sympathy. For example, here are the words of Vladik’s schoolteacher L. P. Ronenko:

‘…You must agree, this is a happy destiny when surrounding people early, very early feel that you are needed to them. Few of younger men can organize their time so that they manage to perfect their physique and mind. It is difficult to state when he found time to draw. His drawings present a surprising mixture of technical perfection and profound thought.

…It is unjust that the best boys perish so early.’

Unjust. Unjust and bitter. In this article we shall tell about the best boys. Unfortunately, they cannot be returned. Their parents remained.

We did not try to find especially tragic and short biographies. Vladik Kharuta’s teacher was quite right: the best perish.

When Kharuta’s plane was falling, only his commander understood that the young man perished because of his bravery and responsibility: he could catapult when he understood that the airplane was defective. But instead he tried to the last moment to master the machine. The assistant of the regiment commander said to Vladik’s parents that their son had died because of his mistake — let it be on his consciousness. The majority of those, who knew Vladik, recollect him as a hero.

As is usual, nobody told Vladik’s parents why the plane had broken. The day before another pilot found a fault in his plane and forbade the flight. But Vladik’s parents at least can console themselves that their son had perished executing his civil duty and his favorite work. Other parents about whom we want to tell, have not such a consolation.

Sergey Bykov dreamed to enter the Military Medical Academy. His way to the Academy started from the barracks: he had to be directed to the Academy from his military unit. Sergey was recruited in 1988 and billeted in Baltiysk of the Kaliningrad oblast. Before joining the army he finished with distinction a medical school. His parents got praises of their son from the medical school. He had many friends.

The army seemed to be interested in using a well-prepared specialist, but the unit commander thought otherwise. If such a healthy guy will write papers in the aid station, who will dig trenches? And he transferred the boy from the chair-born troops. Sergey had nothing to do but to ask parents to send him medicinal textbooks. In six months he took his entrance examinations, but did not pass the contest. It appeared that a representative from the Academy came with the list of four servicemen — Sergey Bykov was not in the list. Well, Sergey returned to his unit and began to prepare himself to the next year examination.

Unfortunately for Sergey, who was respected in his unit, his former commander captain Troaynenko was transferred to the unit, where Sergey got after the examination. Sergey’s unitmate told the following:

‘When Troyanenko beat privates or shouted at them, they were standing silently, while Sergey could object and describe what had really happened. Troyanenko was often wrong and hated both Sergey and his manner to explain.’

This is an extract from a letter to the editorial board of the newspaper ‘Komsomolskaya pravda’, which 15 comrades of Sergey Bykov wrote:

‘…Sergey wanted to become a military physician. Captain Troyanenko in all ways possible prevented him to do it…’

From a letter of Sergey’s parents to Kharkiv Union of soldiers’ mothers:

‘…Much about the last days of our son’s life remained unknown. The version of the commanders is suicide. But this version does not hold water…’

Sergey’s parents came to Baltiysk after Sergey’s death and tried to prove to the investigating officer of the military prosecutor’s office that Sergey was never prone to suicide: he considered it a weakness and used to say that every situation has a way out. Besides, on the head of her dead son mother saw two incoming bullet holes. The investigation could not answer this question.

From a letter of Sergey’s classmates: ‘Sergey had to live because such people are needed to all!’

They all had to live: Vladik, Sergey, and Dima Donchenko, and Sasha Glushchenko, and Maksim, and 300 more young inhabitants of the Kharkiv oblast.

Sasha, Dima and Maksim perished not in the army of the former Soviet Union, but in the army of Ukraine, and we have nobody to blame except ourselves. That happened because the society and the army are communicating vessels. Chaos and irresponsibility which we permit ourselves in the civil life must have cruel consequences for the armed forces of Ukraine.

Before I shall tell about untimely deceased Ukrainian soldiers, I would like to make a little digression.

Heroes of this story are still surprisingly alive, although one of them is now an invalid of the second group. We shall call them Seva and Andrey, but these are not their real names. They were called to the army at the same time: Andrey from a village near Chernigov, Seva from the Zaporozhye oblast. The unit where they served was far from their native places. Their unit was a platoon of guards, that is they stood at their posts with Tommy-guns. It needs not saying that to such service only absolutely cool-blooded and psychically healthy young men should be taken. Andrey was not very healthy, neither physically, nor psychically. He was growing very closed, very quiet, very incommunicable boy. It is true that he learned well and read very much. Maybe, if he complained in the proper time to a neuropathologist of the recruiting commission at his headaches and bad sleep, if his parents came to a psychiatrist and tell him that their son is incommunicable and strange, their son would be better investigated. But Andrey thought his duty to serve in the army. His characteristics from school described him as the best pupil. Thus, Andrey got to the army and got a Tommy-gun. It was later, after the tragedy, that the psychiatrists of the military hospital, where Andrey was taken, said that he must not be taken to the army, since he has inherited psychic deviations, not so grave that he could not lead a normal way of life, to get an education, but his psyche could not survive stresses.

Another participant of this story, Seva, was active and strong, he also went to the army willingly. In their unit ‘deds’, who usually are encouraged by officers because they held in check greenhorns, were also lazy and they appointed a greenhorn Seva the superintendent over greenhorns. Seva was afraid of ‘old soldiers’ and he beat his subordinate greenhorns. Andrey was from those who were beaten. Unlike physics, he was not much successful in physical training. Once Andrey was on duty together with Seva, and they both were armed. Andrey, desperate from previous beatings, first fired at his tormentor and then at himself. Seva was badly wounded: he survived, but remained an invalid for the rest of his life. Andrey also remained alive. Everybody, who knows Andrey, assure that he is a very reticent and kind man, and a long succession of insults and torments was needed to make him shoot. The recruitment of a psychically unstable young man and the situation in the unit resulted in two broken young lives.

Unfortunately, we come across dedovshchina all the time, and it often results in tragic events.

We, members of the Union of soldiers’ mothers, know that a suicide of a young soldier is always preceded by the chain of crimes against personality by the violation of civil rights, by the neglect of human moral norms and, certainly, by the violation of Articles of War. As in the case with Sergey Bykov, this chain was not investigated to the end, by negligence or disability of investigating officers.

Young and psychically healthy boys do not commit suicide, that is a fact.

Sasha Glushchenko was the only hope of his mother Tatiana. Her life was grave: she divorced with her husband and she had sick parents. Tatiana worked a nurse in a kindergarten. Her wages just permitted her to make the ends meet and her son Sasha dreamed to get a good education, after the army service he wanted to become a barrister. He went to the army willingly. There was no dedovshchina in their unit, because all the soldiers were from one shipment of recruits. Sasha had not a single reason to commit suicide. That is why Tatiana did not believe and will never believe that at night, being a sentry, her Sasha shot himself. What happened in fact, is unknown, but the bullet, which took Sasha’s life, actually killed his mother, who lost any wish to live.

As well as in the case of Sergey Bykov, nobody explained to her what had happened, why a young, strong and hopeful youth, able-bodied and religious, suddenly decided to commit suicide. The day before his death mother received a letter from Sasha, in which he asked to sent some audiocassettes with musical records. In the letter he passed his best greetings to his fiancee too. On the day of his death he discussed with his comrade from a neighboring unit what will they do when they get leave warrant. Can a mother, knowing all this, believe that her son committed suicide?

Dima Donchenko was brutally killed by deds. It happened in a military unit billeted near Odessa. He was killed because he was the only one who tried to resist deds.

During the recruitment campaign his mother came many times to the district recruiting commission and to the district council, trying to prove that her son Dima ought not to be called to the army. According to her, he was a very good boy, clever, gifted, but he was not communicable and seldom contacted even with his classmates. He had two friends, both as serious and calm as Dima. He could not stay noisy companies, did not drink alcohol and did not smoke. Certainly, mother’s efforts were futile. To what atmosphere he got in the army can be imagined from the evidence given by witnesses during the court that tried Dima’s murderers. It became clear that the deds in this unit often drank alcohol after the retreat and, having got drunk, beat younger soldiers (thank God, this unit has been disbanded long ago).

Several years passed after Dima’s death, his parents practically became invalids (although officially both of them are not invalids), they need wages, but they are on the sick list very often. During the court a compensation was ruled to Dima’s parents. This compensation had to be paid by the murderers, but they stay in a stern regime colony, are jobless and would hardly be able to pay anything. The claim to the military unit was rejected by the court, although the chaos in the unit was the reason of the murder.

Now we again have learned about three suicides and again a woman sits in front of us and I pray that nobody from our Union of soldiers’ mothers would have such eyes. And the woman tells that her Maksim was a very good boy, he was an excellent pupil. His school friends and teachers, as well as teachers of the technical school say the same: ‘He was a clever boy, an optimist and he wanted to enter the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’. That was why he went to the army willingly.

Having finished the technical school with a ‘red diploma’ (with all excellent marks), Maksim could enter any institute, except the MIA Academy. He was not a greenhorn in the army — only several months left to the demobilization. As well as in the case with Sergey Bykov and Sasha Glushchenko, nobody can explain to Maksim’s mother what has happened. Thank God, the investigation was prolonged, and so we have no right now to give the real name and place.

The tragic inability to learn the truth about the death of the own children in the peaceful time once made their parents to unite. We remember the pickets in the late 80s and early 90s near the Kremlin. V. F. Zybina, a member of the Kharkiv Union of soldiers’ mothers, took part in these pickets (her son Yuri Zybin died in the army of pneumonia). L. A. Bykova, also a member of our organization, actively participated in the movement. She wanted to learn the truth about her son’s death, but contacts with other unfortunate parents convinced Bykova that the majority of tragedies in the Soviet army was accompanied by irresponsibility and impunity. Unfortunately, this tradition is continued in the army of Ukraine.

The Union of soldiers’ mothers is one of the efficiently acting public organizations in the former USSR and in the countries formed after its disintegration: in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus. In the Kharkiv oblast parents of the perished servicemen organized the Kharkiv Union. Later recruits’ parents, who awaited maltreatment of their children, joined the Union. Mostly they are the people who sympathize with troubles not only of their own, but of other children too.

Let us analyze how well does our society and our state execute its duty towards the parents, who lost their children.

On 20 December 1991 the Supreme Rada of Ukraine adopted the law ‘On social and legal protection of servicemen and members of their families’. According to this law, the families of servicemen perished in peaceful time have a number of privileges, such as improvement of living accommodation, discount of communal payments and taxes, etc. On 9 April 1992 another law was adopted: ‘On pensions to servicemen of the army and Ministry of Interior’. This law stipulates auxiliary privileges: retirement on a pension of the parents of the perished servicemen five years before the usual age and 50% increase of the minimal pension in old age. On 23 November 1995 the Ukrainian law ‘On the status of war veterans and guarantees of their social protection’ was adopted, and on 22 December 1995 the addenda to this law were confirmed.

And here the most interesting trick was played by the authorities. According to the latter law (Section 10 of Part II), the action of the law is applied ‘to families of the servicemen killed or missed in action or died because of wounds, contusions and severe injuries obtained during defense of the motherland or executing duties of the military service, and also as a result of diseases caught at the front, or obtained during military service, or on the territory of other states during military actions and conflicts’.

We have quoted this item of the law verbatim because it is this item that has become a stumbling block in obtaining privileges for many parents of the deceased servicemen. The fantasy of bureaucrats led them so far that they began to ask from the parents a death certificate; if the certificate reads ‘perished at execution of his service duty’, then the privileges are given, and if it is worded ‘perished during the execution of his service duty’, then no privileges are granted at all. The latter formula is mostly used for the boys who committed suicide. Every normal person must feel how amoral is this play on words. Someone’s indisputable guilt stands behind any suicide: either of recruiting commissions who called to the army sick youngsters, or officers of the unit who encouraged dedovshchina or victimized the soldiers.

If the society is incapable of keeping order, then it must be financially responsible to the victims of the disorder in the army. But our state is sly. The reader, perhaps, noticed that the families of the perished because of the chaos in the army are not separated as a special category in either of the listed laws. In all these laws they are mixed with some other category, so it seems that we have not such a definite separate problem. This archness, initially put to the legal acts, enables local bureaucrats to distort laws.

Now all the privileges of the parents of the perished servicemen are very shaky because it is bureaucrats who decide which servicemen may be identified with victims of military actions and which may be not.

We have already named one guilty side of the untimely death of young soldiers: this is our society. That is our society, who stands the chaos and disorder in our economy, as a result of which our officers earn a beggarly salary and get it with great pay arrears, so it is difficult to demand the real work from them. This is we, who are guilty that MPs elected by us do not adopt the law on the insurance medicine — without it not a single more or less developed state can exist. That is why not able-bodied young men get to the army, and they must be immediately treated. The Ministry of Defense has no money for this charitable activity.

Nobody is responsible for anything. That is, perhaps, our main trouble. The responsibility

for the life of the young, who have to defend the country, is a test for vitality of the young state. That is why, if we could not preserve the life of our young defenders, then we are in the immeasurable debt before their parents. We cannot return them their children, but we must tell them the truth how and why their children have perished and who personally is guilty. And we must do one more thing: to provide the parents and not to allow them starve. That is why it is grossly immoral to take the privileges from those who lost their providers by the guilt of the state. If, instead of the privileges, our state would be able to pay the parents a normal insurance, which would be paid to the parents in any European country, where they preserved mass armies, then the parents would not need privileges. Yet, the main task is to adopt the law on the social protection of the parents of the perished. Until now we have not a separate law, which would cover this special well-defined category of the citizens.

In Russia the legislators had enough courage to confess that there exists such a category of citizens — parents of the servicemen who perished in peaceful time. The Russian law recognizes the responsibility before these people. The Russian law is called honestly — ‘The law of Russian federation on social provision of the families of servicemen perished in peaceful time’. The sense of this law is formulated quite clearly: ‘Parents of the servicemen listed in Article 1 of the Law (i. e. perished in peaceful time) have the right for the double pension (except the case when the death of a serviceman was the result of the serviceman’s criminal actions).

Nowadays, according to the information sent by the Union of soldiers’ mothers of Russia, a draft of the law lies in the Duma and it stipulates the triple minimal pension. Perhaps, Russia is a richer country, but in any case the Ukrainian practice to divide parents according to ‘at’ and ‘during’ is horrible and contradicting the Constitution of Ukraine that makes all citizens equal in their civil duty of serving Ukraine in the armed forces.

The mother of Sergey Bykov, the father of Vladik Kharuta, the mother of Georgiy Bogachev, the mother of Andrey Poliakov, the mother of Yuri Zybin and other parents, who lived through their tragedies, have managed to create in Kharkiv the organization, which became the kernel of the oblast Union of soldiers’ mothers.

Recently T. Glushchenko has joined this Union. The members of the Union do not want other parents to go through what they had gone. And they want the state and the society to defend the parents of their defenders.
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