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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2,100 Comb City for Armed Deserter

More than 2,000 police officers and Interior Ministry troops closed off the city's biggest park and combed nearby neighborhoods in northeastern Moscow on Tuesday for an armed military deserter.

The manhunt was one of the largest in the capital.

Private Mikhail Korzakov, 19, disappeared from guard duty with a Kalashnikov rifle and 60 rounds of ammunition Monday evening, the police said. He was believed to be hiding in or near the Losiny Ostrov Park, located near VDNKh metro.

Korzakov fled Interior Troops unit No. 7456 in eastern Moscow after receiving a letter in which his girlfriend broke up with him, said Interior Ministry troops spokesman Vasily Panchenkov.

"Judging by what his fellow servicemen have said, he has been in a state of great distress recently," Panchenkov said. "As a 19-year-old guy, it was probably his first love."

Korzakov, a native of Cheboksary in the republic of Chuvashia, apparently climbed over a fence surrounding his unit's quarters and fled under the cover of darkness, he said. In addition to the gun and ammunition, he had a helmet and bulletproof vest with him.

Residents alerted the police Monday night that they had seen a man in a military uniform carrying a gun heading for the Losiny Ostrov Park, NTV television reported.

Panchenkov said 600 police officers, some with dogs, and 1,500 Interior Ministry servicemen were involved in the search in the park and nearby apartment and office buildings.

Security was stepped up at Kazansky Station, from which trains depart for Cheboksary, NTV reported. Television footage showed police officers checking travelers' documents.

Panchenkov said Korzakov's parents and former girlfriend have already been contacted.

Police did not issue any special warnings to residents, asking only that they remain alert and stay away from the Losiny Ostrov Park.

The Soldiers' Mothers Committee estimates that as many as 40,000 conscripts flee their units every year, mainly to escape hazing in the underfunded and demoralized army.

On Sunday, a conscript serving in the far eastern region of Khabarovsk shot and killed a fellow serviceman before fleeing, a border guard official told Interfax on Tuesday. The conscript then hung himself in an abandoned house, the official said.

Similar cases occur across the country almost every month. In February, two paratroopers fled their elite unit just north of the Volga River city of Ulyanovsk with two Kalashnikov rifles and 135 rounds. They killed nine people before being shot dead during a gunfight with the police.

Not all desertions end with bloodshed. In September, 54 conscripts abandoned the 20th Motorized Rifle Division and marched 40 kilometers to Volgograd to protest brutal beatings by senior officers. The servicemen were not punished and returned to their unit peacefully. Under the law, soldiers can be absent without leave for 48 hours.