2012/02/20 "Press Conference of the Mother’s Right Foundation"
  • Press Release No.15/1449
  • February 20th, 2012

On February 20th the Mother's Right Foundation held a press conference entitled: "Justice in Russia is Possible!" at the Independent Press Center in Moscow.  The chairperson of the Mother's Right Foundation, Veronica Aleksandrovna Marchenko, began by presenting official data from the Main Military Prosecutor's Office, that "crimes related to corruption in the Russian Army cost 3 billion roubles in 2011", "from the beginning of last year, 250 bribery cases have been discovered, much more than in 2010." According to the Main Investigating Administration, "the quantity of assault cases reported in the Russian Army compared to last year has increased by 20%," with abuse crimes at 12% and assault crimes at 22% (according to reports from "RIANovosti" and "Rosbalt").

Following this, Veronica Marchenko presented the Mother's Right Foundation's statistical report. In 2011 the foundation lawyers took part in 104 lawsuits (in 162 court sessions) in 47 different Russian cities. During 2011, 2080 letters (27% more than in 2010) were received by the foundation's lawyers who later held appointments with 90 people. The foundation filed 360 solicitations, complaints, applications, and petitions in the interest of the parents of dead soldiers. In total, the Foundation's lawyers rendered free qualified legal assistance to 5207 families of dead soldiers.

Statistics on deaths broken down by military regions in 2011 (according to the applications received by the Mother's Right Foundation) read as follows: the Central Region (28% of parents' applications), Western (25%), Eastern (22%), and lastly in the Southern Region (20%). Also, 5% of applications received by the Foundation were from families of soldiers who died in CIS countries.

Reasons given for the deaths of the soldiers were: Accidents - 31%, suicide - 30%, natural deaths  - 28%, attempted suicide - 5%, on duty - 2%, homicide as a result of an assault - 2%, and other (missing information) - 2%.

Veronica Marchenko also pointed to a disappointing trend that began in 2010 where it has become apparent that at times no real action is taken after a soldier's death, instead there is only an inspection. During the pre-inspection stage the soldiers' relatives are not considered to be the aggrieved party, meaning that parents of deceased solders don't have the same rights as victims. There are instances of cases that were started and terminated on many occasions, yet were never brought to court. To conduct an inspection is less work in homicide cases, and usually the inspection is fabricated.

More specifically, Veronica Marchenko spoke about Military Unit #69647, situated in Kyakhta, a town near the Mongolian border, because of a high number of soldier deaths. Over a period of 6 months a number of soldiers died: Konstantin Shabunin, Aleksander Gladkov, Sergey Shchipakin and Dmitry Dedyukhin. All of the deceased were the primary contributors for their families. In the case of Dmitry Dedyukhin, a court session took place in the summer of 2011. The foundation represented his father during the session.  Veronica described the dead soldier's remaining family, Dmitry's father, as being hearing-impaired and could only be consulted with the help of his daughter, who was only 16 at that time. In other families the situation was not better than in the Dedyukhin's. For example, Konstantin Shabunin was the only relative for his younger brother Anton (both parents deceased). When Konstantin died, Anton lived on his own (at the moment the Mother's Right Foundation sponsors a charity project connected with supporting Anton; all private donations are used to help Anton get an education and get back on his feet. This information is made available in our report for 2011 and donations to help Anton Shabunin are being accepted).

Lately, the foundation has been reviewing applications pertaining to the death of those soldiers who provided (financially) for their children, aged parents or persons in need of special care.  "The State has abandoned those who were solely reliant on the support of their adult son, or father" explained Veronica Marchenko. Instead, she refers to the fact that nowadays, the "popular trend" is to investigate corruption crimes in the army, where from time to time we hear about Generals being charged for stealing millions, but it's not "popular" to investigate the cases related to the deaths of soldiers.  Unfortunately, we are still dealing with an ineffective investigation process, indicating that the state "doesn't care about the Dimas, Sashas, and Serezhas, only their parents do".

Recently, the foundation received a letter from a Lilia Lukianova (Novosibirsk), the mother of an individual injured while serving in the army. It is reported that he fell out of a 3rd floor window and suffered severe head trauma. The mother was told that "he jumped out or fell out of the window by accident because she raised him on her own and wasn't able teach him how to become a real man." The Military Committee "refused to provide his sanatorium treatment or any other assistance, no one from his Military Unit inquired about his well-being and he even got fired." "Now my son is bedridden" Lillia Aleksandrovna explained, "Lying in bed at home, breathing through a tracheotomy tube, taking food through a probe, he can't talk, but he understands everything and responds using his eyes. Doctors and parents are very concerned about his condition, but Military officers don't care at all. We were just left to the mercy of fate, and now nobody cares... I wrote to many places and received no response...from the very beginning we have purchased all the necessary medications, creams, sterile napkins, aspirator, bedsore preventing mattress bed, wheel-chair, sheets, diapers, probe food, etc., we even hired massage therapists, and doctors...I am so tired of the despair and indifference shown by the military officers, for them, a human-being is nothing."

On a positive note, Veronica Marchenko, the Foundation's chairperson, provided information about successful lawsuits carried out in 2011.

  • 1. On April 15th, 2011 the Foundation won a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased soldier's father in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. Zotkin was a victim of occupational deferment discrimination. This decision made by the Supreme Court (besides that, it's a significant event for any juridical institution) is importance for similar cases and creating positive law practice across the country.
  • 2. Class suits (very rare in Russian law) by the parents of soldiers have been filed, facing the same violation and living in the same region. The Goal: the development of class action law suits in Russia. In 2011, 6 class action law suits were won in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod on behalf of 42 family members of dead soldiers.
  • 3. On January 13th, 2011 the European Human Rights Court officially notified the Mother's Right Foundation about the preliminary consideration of our complaint # 19355/09 "Fillipovs against Russia" and admitted it as a reasonable case.
  • 4. In a Civil lawsuit: the fine of over 2 billions roubles was imposed on Yakupov (paranoid schizophrenic), who was charged with the murder of a reservist, Andrey Galanov. During firing practice, Yakupov suddenly and without any reason began to shoot people: as a result two soldiers died - Dmitry Kuznetsov and Andrey Galanov. Andrey had a pregnant wife, and his son Nikita Galanov was born 3 months later after his death. The family later decided to seek the Foundation's help.

Veronica Marchenko announced that in 2011 the Mother's Right Foundation won 72% of filed cases. Veronica Marchenko stated that "The law can and must work for ordinary people." She later presented three social posters created by the Foundation created for the "Justice in Russia is possible" campaign completed by the foundation's volunteers (professional designers Oleg Pashchenko, Illarion Gordon and Talgat Nurbaev). The three social advertisements read as follows: "Lawsuits can be won without having friends in the Courts", "Lawsuits can be won without money", and "Lawsuits can be won without magic." They were presented at the unique Women Fest Femme Fest held from November 11th-13th, 2011 in the Central Exhibition Hall "Manezh" in downtown Moscow. Three days prior to Exhibition the posters were seen by 15 thousand people, volunteers handed out over 400 flyers with stories about successful lawsuits and the call to become a volunteer.

Veronica Marchenko talked about a change in legislation in 2012, and particularly shortcomings of the law # 324 FL "About free legal assistance in the Russian Federation", which began on November 21st, 2011. "It's good that we have this law, but it's unfortunate that it is how it is" - commented Veronica Marchenko.

Briefly, she explained some of the shortcomings of this law: 1) The list of citizens who have the right to receive free legal assistance is too small; in fact, it consists of only low-income families and those belonging to disability group 1 and 2. 2) The list of cases for free legal assistance is too small. And the cases, such as those the Mother's Right Foundation is dealing with, are not included in the list (except for some social cases), for example, representing the interests of victims in a criminal case. 3) Control of the quality of legal assistance offered is not explained in the legislation. 4) The law doesn't solve the problem associated with offering free legal services for individuals. About 80% of the money received from this state agency is spent on support and only 20% to cover lawyer fees.

To conclude the press conference, Veronica Marchenko announced the Foundation's annual event, inviting everyone to support the parents of deceased soldiers on February 23rd. That day is not a holiday for us, it's a day of Remembrance and Sorrow for all those who perished while serving in the army, on that day the Foundation traditionally provides the funeral rites in the All Saints Church of the former Novoalekseyevsky Monastery.

We would like to thank all of the journalists who took part in the press conference, and also the volunteers of the Mother's Right Foundation: Olga Yudina, Irina Reginis, and Victor Belomestnykh who helped organize and facilitate this event.