war crimes in Ukraine

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Soldiers perish in peaceful time

I.Sukhorukova, Kharkov
In mass media we often, too often for peaceful time, come across with information on killed servicemen.

When a young man dies, this is tragic and unfair. When a young soldier dies, then usually there must be someone to blame. Ukraine is really a peaceful country, one of a few in the post-Soviet space. We are exasperated when we observe the economic and political chaos, unemployment and poverty, but we have peace. One must have a talk with representatives of the Russian Union of soldiers’ mothers in order to understand how well it is not to have conflicts similar to those in Chechnya, Tadjikistan, Abkhazia or the Dniester region. Russia has numerous victims in any of the listed regions, but, thank God, Ukraine is quiet.

Nonetheless, in out peaceful country young men continue to die in our army. Their parents have united into a public organization in order to attract attention of our society and authorities, in order to prove that death of young men in peaceful time is unnatural. Very often parents of the perished servicemen cooperate with the Union of soldiers’ mothers.

We remember the women who gathered in late 80s on the Red Square, under the walls of the ‘White House’, where the 1 stCongress of people deputies worked. Mothers demanded from the newly-elected deputies, from the President the truth about how and why their children perished, perished not in Afghanistan, but in the native country in peaceful time. Few of them learned this truth: a system, which does not value human life, does not contain a mechanism of protecting citizens.

When the USSR disintegrated and the republics declared their independence, much might change. As we have said above, there are no territorial, interethnic and other mass conflicts in Ukraine. Nonetheless, the parents of the perished servicemen created a Union, and this union is too numerous. We, Ukrainian citizens, have the right to ask ourselves and our authorities what kind of army we would like? And another question: what must we do to alleviate the grief of those people who lost their children?

First of all, let us have a look how are these people socially protected. The parents of the perished servicemen have certain privileges. They have the right of free transportation within a town, they are given old-age pensions five years before the usual term. Nonetheless, I have a complaint in my desk from T.Donchenko, the mother of a perished serviceman. She complains that controllers in the town transport very often do not want to consider her certificate as satisfactory for free transportation. Often parents of the perished do not get the money for the burial, although by law they must get the material aid, generally and for the burial. They also infrequently get the results of the qualified investigation concerning the cause of the death.

To make the matters worse, in 1996 our legislators made some changes in the law on pensions to servicemen.

Up to 1996 all families, whose sons perished during military service, got 50% extra to their pension, provided that the death was not related to a violation of the Penal Code by the serviceman. Parents, whose children perished in performing their duties, got the same addition to their pensions. After making changes in the Ukrainian law on pensions to servicemen the parents of the perished are divided into two categories. Now in social provision departments they ask the question: ‘What was the reason of the death of your son?’ And if the young man perished from beating, committed a suicide or died of an unidentified disease, the addition to the pension is reduced or cancelled. It does not matter that the version of a suicide cannot stand any criticism, and the death because of some exotic infection occurred in the place where some new weapon was tested, like in Siberia, in 1988. If in the documents there is no note that the death occurred in performing service duties, then the unfortunate parents loose the addition to their pensions.

‘Performing the service duties’ for a soldier lasts around the clock. And if a sick adolescent was recruited, and he died because of negligence or incompetence of physicians, or committed suicide because of dedovshchina, then the parents have the right to ask: what have done those officials and officers who had to be responsible for the life of their son?

A guide of a group of tourists, a teacher, an engine- or a bus- driver are responsible for the life of people in their charge. Officers, as a rule, are not responsible. At least, we do not know of any case when they have been punished for their irresponsibility.

We appeal to the MPs elected in Kharkov region with a request to raise the question of ‘the amendments’ on the pension additions to the parents whose children perished during their service in the army, regardless of the cause, except when a serviceman committed a crime proved at court.

We suggest to introduce into the new Penal Code an article on the criminal responsibility of officers for death of their subordinates. This will certainly lead to diminishing the number of deaths in the army.
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