Thu, Aug 30, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Death raises questions about Russian military

AFP , MOSCOW

The horrifying death of a soldier who was beaten by his superiors and thrown in a dog cage, has severely undermined the Russian military's claim to have improved conditions for its largely conscript force.

The special forces guarding a space launch center in the far north of the country, launched a damage control campaign following news late on Monday that Private Sergei Sinkonen, 21, had died of injuries from a savage beating by two drunken superiors 10 days earlier.

"This is the first case in the space forces where a conscript died as a result of hazing," spokesman Alexei Zolotukhin said.

One non-commissioned officer (NCO) has been arrested and the other suspect in the incident, a captain, is being given psychiatric treatment at a hospital on base.

According to officials, the NCO and captain were drunk on Aug. 15 when they kicked and beat Sinkonen and another conscript.

Russian media reported that the two bloodied young men were then forced into a cage with guard dogs at the high-security space base. A spokesman for the local town's mayor said that the "dog cage was empty" at the time.

They were only rescued in the morning. Sinkonen, who was in a coma, underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, but died in hospital.

Critics said the case revealed how little the military and government have done to address a culture of brutality and lawlessness within the ranks -- even as Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration trumpets Russia's return as a great military power.

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