Army Scorns Soldier Report

A Russian soldier seeking political asylum in Georgia crossed the border voluntarily, a Russian military investigator told RIA-Novosti on Thursday.

But Defense Ministry official Igor Konashenkov rejected the report as "an invention of a journalist" and "a provocation that aims to discredit the armed forces."

The unidentified investigator was quoted by state-run RIA-Novosti as saying an army investigation showed that the soldier, Alexander Glukhov, voluntarily left his unit.

Konashenkov, aide to the commander of the ground forces, said in a statement that bad weather conditions meant that investigators had not yet reached the area in South Ossetia where Glukhov had been stationed, and therefore the military had no new information that contradicted earlier statements that Glukhov was kidnapped by Georgian special forces.

Glukhov says he left his unit in South Ossetia earlier this month because of unbearable conditions. Georgia, which lost a brief war with Russia after it attempted to retake the rebel region in August, has paraded Glukhov in the media.

"I was not kidnapped. I came by myself," Glukhov said in an interview with the BBC Russian Service published Thursday.

Glukhov said he was now seeing the sights in Tbilisi. He said he hoped to find work as a computer programmer.