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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kursk Aid Attacked as Unfair

As the government rushes to pay compensation to relatives of families of the Kursk submarine sailors, families of other servicemen killed in uniform are questioning why the government has not helped them in the same way.

After the disaster in the Barents Sea, which killed the entire crew of 118, the government announced generous financial benefits for the families of the sailors — sums that dwarf the usual payments given to close relatives of soldiers and sailors who have died in the line of duty.

"The state is discriminating against those who lost children in Chechnya or in the army in general," said Valeria Pantyukhina, spokeswoman for the Foundation for a Mother’s Right, an organization that for the past 10 years has assisted the families of soldiers and seamen who died in uniform.

Relatives of a soldier, sailor or pilot killed on active duty normally receive a standard one-time payment of 120 times the serviceman’s salary, which is divided among immediate family members. Each family member also receives an individual insurance payment of 25 times the serviceman’s salary. A separate payment is made to cover funeral costs.

Click here to read our Special Report on the Kursk Tragedy.In the case of a conscript soldier not serving in a war zone, whose base salary is 50 rubles ($1.80), payment to the family is 6,000 rubles, while the individual payment is 1,250. For officers, the amounts are much higher. The salary of a captain is about 6,000 rubles.

But families of the Kursk crew will receive a payment of 725,000 rubles in addition to the standard package, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko told Kommersant this week. The government will also provide new housing for the families anywhere in the country if they want to move.

Tatyana Kruglova, whose son Anton was killed in Chechnya last year, said she found the difference between the payments to the Kursk families and the money she received hard to stomach. "When we heard what they were going to receive, we felt a little hurt," she said.

But Kruglova and Pantyukhina emphasized that they were not questioning whether the Kursk families deserved such large packages — only the inequity.

"In no way are we saying that it’s not right that these families received large compensation," Pantyukhina said. "But we have a grievance against a state that doesn’t think it needs to say sorry to parents of those killed in the war."

Pantyukhina said the government had been forced to pay attention to the Kursk families’ plight because the disaster received so much media attention.

"The state is now trying to buy their silence so that they don’t sue them," she said.

She added that there are many cases when relatives of servicemen killed in Chechnya or during peace time do not receive even the compensation or receive it only after a long delay.

Kruglova went to the Foundation for a Mother’s Right after she and her husband were told they could not receive benefits because they were too young. After the foundation’s employees showed them the law — which stipulates no age limit on compensation — they went back to the officials and stood firm until they received the payments.

In her interview with Kommersant, Matviyenko rejected the criticism about the discrepancy in the payments, saying such talk is "unethical and incorrect."

As proof that the government is helping families of soldiers in Chechnya, she mentioned 93 million rubles that were set aside last week to help the families of soldiers injured there. She did not mention any extra aid to families of soldiers killed in the war. Click here to read our Special Report on the Kursk Tragedy.