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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

One Dead, 250 Soldiers Ill in Rostov

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia -- Prosecutors have opened a criminal case against a military medical officer accused of negligence after hundreds of soldiers in a Rostov-on-Don unit came down with a severe respiratory virus and pneumonia, a military prosecutor said Wednesday.

One soldier from a communications unit died of pneumonia and 250 remain hospitalized after the illness broke out in early January. Eighty-nine of the hospitalized soldiers have been diagnosed with pneumonia and 12 of them are in intensive care, said Anatoly Romashko, the acting prosecutor of the North Caucasus Military District. He said Major Vladimir Vitkovsky, the head of the unit's medical service, had been charged with negligence.

Romashko said investigators were looking into whether the illness had been transmitted through food or whether the soldiers had become sick because they became chilled while making a 3-kilometer trek to the barracks from a bathhouse in temperatures of about minus 7 degrees Celsius.

The investigators faulted medics for improperly using vaccines, which worsened the illness.