2008/05/30 "A Million Rubles and 6 Years"
  • Press Release No. 62/1063
  • 30/05/2008

On May 30, a panel of judges of the Criminal Board of the Leningrad Military District Court held a hearing on the cassation appeal in the case of Sergeant Sergei Zavialov (b. 1984) from the Vologda Region who died in the army. Sergei was called up to military service on June 23, 2005, and served in M.U. 11255, Sertolovo Village. On February 5, 2007 Sergei was promoted to the rank of junior sergeant and served as a squad leader. By the same order, his fellow serviceman D.I. Kochkov was demoted to the rank of private (from the rank of junior sergeant). At the night of April 27, 2007 Sergei Zavialov served as an orderly man. Kochkov serves as the second one. According to the testimonies in the case, Kochkov would always escape his duties: other servicemen performed them. At approximately 3 A.M. Sergei Zavialov woke up Kochkov (as was supposed) and said that the latter should replace him. Kochkov refused to. According to the case materials, Kochkov beat Sergei Zavialov in the lavatory. Sergei was taken to the neurosurgery department of the Military Medical Academy, St. Petersburg, but doctors could not save his life. On May 5, 2007 he died of brain and cranial trauma.

Kochkov was charged with Article 334, s. 2, and Article 111 of the RF CC. The interests of the mother of the deceased, Nadezhda Borisovna Zavialova, were represented by Julia Larina, lawyer of the Mother's Right Foundation. The previous hearings were held on December 10 and 25, 2007; March 12 и 13, 2008; March 21, 2008. It was a long and complicated trial. Our lawyer had to correct the mistakes of the attorney hired by the mother of the deceased (he promised to help her but did not come to the court; as a result, the plaintiff missed the first part of the trial). The mother of the deceased nullified the letter of attorney and applied to the foundation. At once our lawyer found out the results of the ‘work' done by the attorney: he filed a claim against the accused. Julia Larina withdrew the claim and filed new claims against M.U. 11255. (Today we are glad that we did it in time because our claim against the unit was satisfied in full.)

For some reasons, prosecutor Alexei Alexeyevich Kochura from the Leningrad Military District Court objected to the compensation claim against the military unit. He declared that the mother of the deceased had already received the death benefits from a life insurance policy, and the state ‘did not owe' her anything. The lawyer of the Mother's Right Foundation objected, ‘Death benefits from a life insurance police and a claim for compensation for moral damage have nothing in common'. To be just, we should admit that Kochura's position differed from ours only in the civil part of the suit. When it came to the criminal part of the case, he did his best to represent the interests of the mother of the deceased. He filed a cassation appeal in which he objected to dropping a charge (the Sertolovo Garrison Court excluded Article 111) and to the light penalty (Kochkov was sentenced to 6 years in colony of general regime). The attorney of the accused, Vasily Ivanovich Belokon, tried to prove that it had not been a crime but an accident. His position is typical. And it sounds ridiculous: the numerous injuries of the dead serviceman were not the result of the criminal actions of the accused; before dying the serviceman hit himself against the walls, floor, door and other things... The Mother's Right Foundation insisted on a heavy penalty for the accused and a full satisfaction for the civil claim. The representative of the unit said that the commanding officers had given Mrs. Zavialova the documents on a one-time allowance and insurance policy payments and thus had already paid for the moral damage. The Sertolovo Garrison Court noted: ‘We can't restrict the plaintiff's right to file a civil claim in the criminal trial because the above mentioned actions on the part of the commanding officers are regulated according to other laws and are performed independently. (...) Considering the amount of compensation, the garrison court takes into account limitless suffering of the mother of the deceased who has lost her only child. Also, the court takes into account the circumstances of the death of the plaintiff's son who at the moment of the incident was performing his duties (military service)". The court of first instance sentenced Kochkov to 6 years in colony and satisfied the claim filed by the Mother's Right Foundation (1 million ruble compensation for moral damage; the unit was obliged to pay the mother of the deceased 32,570 rubles for the expenses related to her son's death). Besides, the accused was obliged to pay 63,000 rubles to the Military Medical Academy spent for the reanimation of Sergei Zavialov (the claim was satisfied in full).

All the parties were not satisfied. The attorney of the accused thought that the penalty was too heavy and filed a cassation appeal. Prosecutor Kochura filed a cassation appeal against dropping Article 111: ‘In the process of passing a verdict, the criminal law was misused which resulted in the light sentence that can't be considered fair and adequate to the crime'.

Today, May 30, the lawyer of the Mother's Right Foundation, Tatiana Sladkova, participated in the cassation hearing held by the Leningrad Military District Court. The appeal was considered by a panel of judges consisting of Yevgeny Ivanovich Shishkin, Vladimir Dmitriyevich Averchenko, and Oleg Anatolievich Derbilov (chairman). At today's hearing, the attorney of the accused, Mr. Belokon, tried to prove that it had been an accident, not a crime. He said that his client should be acquitted. Prosecutor Andrey Valerievich Obukhov supported the appeal filed by prosecutor Kochura. The Mother's Right Foundation represented the interests of the mother of the deceased. We kept in mind that the state prosecutor was against the claim for compensation for moral damage and we should pay special attention to the issue. (We had problems in analogous cases: the court of first instance passed a decision; the prosecutor filed a cassation appeal; the court of second instance - a panel of judges - cut the amount of compensation.) The Mother's Right Foundation supported the cassation appeal filed by the prosecutor. 

After hearing the parties and considering the case materials, the panel passed a decision according to which: the decision of the Sertolovo Garrison Court was left in force; the attorney's complaint was dismissed; Kochura's cassation appeal was dismissed. Thus, the decision of the court of first instance came into force.

1,000,000 rubles is the biggest compensation amount for an army death. This is the only way to punish military units for deaths of the servicemen. Many parents who received compensation for the death of their children in the army are envied by other people. Those people just don't understand that money can't take the place of a son...

From the speech of Nadezhda Borisovna Zavialova: ‘During today's hearing, I've hoped to see remorse or guilt in the eyes of Kochkov but saw impudence and belief in his own impunity. I know for sure that for years, I will remember the cool and cruel eyes of the man who has deprived my son of life...'