Military prosecutors probe cover-up of soldier's death

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MOSCOW, February 3 (RIA Novosti) - The Military Prosecutor's Office is investigating a criminal case involving a battalion commander who tried to cover up a subordinate's death, the Russian prosecutor general said Friday.

Lt. Col. Pugachev, a logistics battalion commander, defied the Russian defense minister's order banning the use of conscript labor in performing duties unrelated to military service.

"He [Pugachev] ignored the minister's order, hiring his soldiers out to different people. In late October, Pvt. Grivev and Jr. Sgt. Maslov were farmed out to build a private house," Vladimir Ustinov told a meeting of the country's prosecutors.

The sergeant was found dead at the construction site with apparent signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. "Nevertheless, the lieutenant colonel issued instructions that the sergeant be listed not as killed in performing non-military duties but as being away on leave with a subsequent discharge to the reserves. They produced fake leave papers and assignment and transfer orders," the prosecutor general said.

Ustinov said that enlisted men often sustained injuries and died in performing duties outside military service. "To put it simply, they are hired out by their superiors to private individuals, commercial structures, and sometimes even to senior commanders," Ustinov said.

At the same time, the prosecutor general said that the Defense Ministry's order had come too late.

Ustinov also said that the problem could not be resolved simply by upping the demand on military prosecutors.

"Until the military cleans up its act, until internal military institutions begin to work effectively, until effective preventive measures are implemented, until officers stop lying to each other, and until each transgressor is brought to book, no serious changes for the better can be expected in the armed forces," Ustinov said.

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