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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Charity Provides Little Comfort

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The parents of 32 soldiers killed in Chechnya were called together Friday so that a charity fund could give them 10,000 rubles ($345), but they found it difficult to express any gratitude.

"I would prefer these donations to be brought to my home," said Svetlana Zosimenko, whose son Mikhail, 24, was killed in December 1999 near Argun. "Just as you start finding a little peace of mind, they bring us out for those actions, and they are very disturbing."

The Liniya Zhizni, or Lifeline, charity fund, which organized the event with the help of City Hall, gave the parents the cash in envelopes, flowers and boxes of chocolates.

Of about 3,000 soldiers and officers officially recorded as killed in Chechnya and Dagestan since August 1999, 140 were drafted from Moscow and the Moscow region, the fund said. Their relatives are brought together from time to time, in ad hoc groups, to receive donations from charity funds or the city government, said Boris Shevtsov, a City Hall official.

"We understand that no words or actions could make up for the parents' losses, but we think that society must demonstrate its respect and empathy to relatives of the victims," said Tatyana Vasilyeva, another city official.

Most of the parents who gathered Friday in a city administration building were crying. Sitting around a big table, some pressed flowers to their faces to hide the tears. Some clenched their fists and gritted their teeth. All found it difficult to speak.

Several of the mothers said their sons went to war to earn money, either as contract soldiers or after volunteering for officers training as conscripts.

"He wanted to earn some money for us because I am disabled and I have lost all my close relatives including my husband," said Olga Mikhailova, whose son Andrei, 18, was killed last December while serving at a checkpoint between Chechnya and Dagestan.

"After his death, I received 125,000 rubles in insurance and they pay me a pension for him, 1,700 rubles.

"But all I want is him alive," Mikhailova said.

Yelena Podgorodnikova's son Nikolai, 18, was killed Aug. 18 last year. He was a sapper, and died of wounds after a land mine exploded near him.

"I don't have the impression that he lost his life for any good reason," Podgorodnikova said. "All wars are bad, and this one is not an exception."

Zosimenko agreed: "I don't know what our children died for there. My son participated in the first war and he had never fully recovered from it and found it hard to live in peace. He told me the young boys were dying there, while he knew what needed to be done [to stay out of danger].

"But I still wonder — why my son, who was a scout-sniper, was sent into a plain attack, like infantry, with other scouts? I saw a film made by RTR about that attack as told by its survivors and I understand they were used unprofessionally. In the month he died, only 45 people survived out of his battalion of more than 300 people."

The Liniya Zhizni fund was created in 1997 with the participation of the Fuel Ministry, the Union of War Veterans and the state Military Insurance. The fund's supervisory council includes Gazprom and most of the major oil companies, which make regular contributions to the fund.

According to a fund press release, it has donated more than 50 million rubles.

Most of the money has gone to the families of servicemen killed in armed conflicts and to wounded and handicapped soldiers being treated in hospitals.