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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Defense Ministry Sends Brass to Look at Primorye Charges

The Defense Ministry has dispatched a group of senior officials to the Primorye region to check on reports that officers from an army unit there are extorting bribes from subordinates and that civilians are terrorizing soldiers from the same unit.

Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov has arrived to investigate the army division stationed near the village of Segreyevka, Colonel Leonid Kozhan, spokesman for the Far Eastern Military District, told Interfax on Thursday.

Local law enforcement officers are assisting the military in investigating allegations that officers in the division have been demanding bribes from their subordinates, Kozhan said.

Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Kostyshin confirmed by telephone Friday that Pankov left for the unit Wednesday, but said the ministry would not comment until military prosecutors had completed their investigation into the allegations.

Local media have said a local youth gang, led by a former convict named Ruslan Kobets, has assaulted several officers in the division, attacks to which the division's senior officers have turned a blind eye, Interfax reported.

Kobets and four of his friends beat up the servicemen during a drunken rampage in June, an incident senior officers tried to cover up, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported Friday.

The daily managed to interview Kobets, who denied extorting any money and said he was just trying to protect local soldiers from extortion by their superiors. In one case, an officer threatened a subordinate that he would report him absent without leave if he did not pay a bribe, Komsomolskaya Pravda said.

Officials from the Far Eastern Military District could not be reached for comment Friday.