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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hundreds Rally for Ivanov's Ouster

APSychyov's mother, Galina, left, and sister in a Chelyabinsk hospital on Friday.
Hundreds of people rallied at the Defense Ministry over the weekend to demand the ouster of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov over a brutal hazing that led to a conscript's legs and genitals being amputated.

Ivanov, who initially played down the hazing as "nothing serious," on Friday fired the head of the military academy where the attack occurred and sent the commander of the ground forces to the school to investigate.

A doctor said the state would pay for an operation to restore the conscript's sexual organs.

Private Andrei Sychyov, 19, was tied to a chair by drunken soldiers and beaten on his legs for at least three hours at the Chelyabinsk Armor Academy on New Year's Eve. When Sychyov finally received medical treatment four days later, gangrene had spread up his legs, forcing doctors to amputate them and his genitals.

Some 400 people, including students, parents and elderly Muscovites, gathered outside the Defense Ministry with posters reading "Fire Ivanov" and "There have been worse times but none more despicable." The rally was unauthorized, but dozens of police standing nearby made no attempt to break it up. Demonstrators left peacefully after two hours.

"The demonstration came about spontaneously," organizer Marina Litvinovich said Sunday. "I posted a message saying 'Let's go and protest at the Defense Ministry' on my blog, and I was surprised by the huge feedback I got."

Litvinovich, spokeswoman for Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion turned liberal politician and director of the Foundation to Help the Victims of Terror, said she had been summoned to appear in court Monday to pay a fine for organizing an unsanctioned rally. "I took full responsibility for the demonstration," she said.

Several dozen people held a similar rally Saturday in Yekaterinburg, the capital of Sverdlovsk, Sychyov's native region.

Ivanov, who has been tipped as a likely successor to President Vladimir Putin, apparently knew nothing about the hazing until Thursday, 25 days after the incident had occurred and a day after military prosecutors confirmed it. Asked about the attack during a working trip to Armenia, Ivanov replied, "There is nothing serious there, otherwise I would have known about it."

On Friday, Ivanov sent the commander of the ground troops, Lieutenant General Alexei Maslov, to Chelyabinsk to investigate why military officials had failed to report it immediately.

"The chief commander was ordered to find out why officers and generals did not report to commanders in Moscow about what had happened at the Chelyabinsk academy for 25 days," Ivanov said, Interfax reported.

Ivanov fired the academy's head, Major General Viktor Sidorov, and dismissed him from military service.

He also proposed drafting legislation to severely punish those convicted of hazing.

Chief Military Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov will brief the Federation Council on Feb. 6 on prosecutors' efforts to maintain order in the armed forces, said Federation Council Senator Viktor Ozerov.

Savenkov called the hazing the worst crime against servicemen that he had seen in his 20 years of service.


AP

Andrei Sychyov

Seven soldiers, including three officers, were detained last week in connection with the hazing. Interfax reported Saturday that the officers and two other servicemen had been released but remained under investigation, while the final two -- including a sergeant suspected of inflicting the most harm on Sychyov -- were still in custody.

Savenkov said on Sunday that a total of 12 servicemen were under investigation.

Sychyov sister, Marina Muffert, told Ekho Moskvy radio on Saturday that her mother had received several threatening phone calls urging her to keep quiet about the hazing.

Valentina Melnikova, head of the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees, which protects soldiers' rights, expressed concern that those guilty in the hazing might not be brought to justice. She said military officials might pressure prosecutors to close the embarrassing case quietly. "I hope that the chief military prosecutor, Savenkov, will be able to stand this pressure," she said.

Sychyov remained in serious condition on Sunday but was showing slight signs of improvement, Ekho Moskvy radio reported, citing Anatoly Belitsky, a doctor at Chelyabinsk Hospital No. 3, where Sychyov is hospitalized.

Muffert said her brother could not speak because of an oxygen tube in his throat but was able to swallow liquids.

Sychyov's relatives in Krasnoturyinsk, where he was drafted about six months ago, have started gathering money for his rehabilitation with the help of a local newspaper, which has printed the number of bank account in his sister's name.

Mikhail Sokolshchik, a doctor at the National Microsurgery Center, said Sunday that Sychyov would be offered the possibility of having his genitals restored.

"We have a severely traumatized patient who is in emergency care, and after he returns to normal we will propose to him an operation to restore his genitals," Sokolshchik said on NTV television.

"The state will pay for the operation. It won't cost the patient anything," he said.