2009/06/04 "3 Years for Fatal ‘Joke’ "
  • Press Release No. 49/1192
  • 04/06/2009

TODAY, June 4, the Pyatigorsk Garrison Military Court announced the decision on the Army death case of Alexander Emelyanov from the Volgograd Region. The interests of the mother of the deceased, Tatyana Khamrievna Tratsevskaya, were represented by the Mother's Right Foundation lawyer, Julia Lebedeva. The trial was held on June 2, 3, and 4. Alexander was called up for military service on November 26, 2005 and, having signed a contract in June 2006, served in military unit No. 64201 in Kabardino-Balkaria. On November 11, 2008 he died in the Resuscitation Department of the Clinical Hospital of Prokhladny Town from a gunshot wound to the head received on November 10. His fellow serviceman, Alexander Gennadyevich Jerekhov, was accused under section 2, article 349 (homicide by negligent handling of dangerous weapon). He wounded Alexander Emelyanov with a submachine gun.

The indictment reads that, according to the Duty Schedule for November 2008,

Jerekhov and Emelyanov were to take over the interior guard duty with other members of their subdivision. On receiving a submachine gun,  Jerekhov ‘decided to play a joke to scare his fellow serviceman and he pointed the gun at Emelyanov. He pulled the trigger after he had turned the trigger safety to the ‘off' position and thus shot Emelyanov in the head...'  Sasha was delivered to the hospital, but doctors were unable to save him. The accused, Jerekhov, explained that ‘he was drunk and didn't notice that he had turned off the trigger safety and turned the gun from safe to fire.... So, just for a joke, he pointed the gun at Emelyanov and pulled the trigger. The gun fired and Emelyanov fell down with his wounded face downwards.' The accused fully admitted his guilt in court.

The case appeared to be a rare one in our practice - well-drawn case materials, no lost evidence, no bias tests. The court allowed us to interrogate the witnesses without haste. While interrogating the officers responsible for sending soldiers to that fatal guard shift, we found out that the unit was a mess: none of the officers was nearby at the moment of the tragedy; the soldiers prepared themselves for their guard duties and took guns out of the ‘locked' armory on their own. And sure, ‘nobody noticed' that Jerekhov was quite tipsy. He got his gun and a cartridge magazine with no difficulty. As the witnesses testified, the guards of this unit usually have a medical examination only after receiving guns that was why they failed to examine Jerekhov in time...

Here is an extract from the testimony of P. A. Tamarevsky, a witness in the case and major of unit No. 64201: ‘I was not there at the moment, I heard about the accident later...' It was Tamarevsky who should have prepared the servicemen for their guard duty and been present during the distribution of arms. Answering the questions of the Mother's Right Foundation lawyer, he explained to the court that preparation for guard duty consisted of 3 stages: distribution (November 8); theory and examination on knowledge of service regulations (November, 9); practical instruction and training (November 10). However, only one stage was executed - the distribution. It means that they appointed the guards and that was all. The theory stage was not executed because November 9 fell on a day-off, so the examination was postponed for the morning of November 10.  But in the morning they discovered that ‘the unit's petrol had frozen' and the officers were supposedly busy with that petrol, so the soldiers first walked around, then watched TV, and then took over guard duty on their own. At the moment of the accident, Tamarevsky was having dinner at home. When the Foundation lawyer asked him about his disciplinary penalties, Tamarevsky could not remember any penalty for the death of Emelyanov. Even when Georgy Anatolievich Tsomayev, public prosecutor, asked him about the public prosecutor's presentation against the unit's commanding officers and those who were personally responsible for the accident, the question did not refresh his memory. Therefore, the court summoned the former commanding officer of unit No. 64201 (which had been disbanded by the time), Gostev, and asked him about why he had not informed the guilty persons of the prosecutor's presentation. Gostev insisted that all the necessary measures had been taken. Then Tamarevsky suddenly remembered that, yes, all the persons guilty for the homicide had been punished.... Other officers, who should have been present at the place and not let the drunk soldier receive a gun, were also absent. The Chief of Staff of the motorized infantry regiment, D.G. Smirnov, who should have controlled the distribution of arms, received permission to stay home on personal business. Tamarevsky substituted him with lieutenants S. G. Stanchu and D. P. Krivosheyev, who were late because they were busy either with petrol or with having dinner. As a result, no officer was present when the soldiers were taking guns. Obviously, such situations are not accidental but a common occurrence.

Today, June 4, the pleadings were filed and exchanged between the parties.

The public prosecutor asked to sentence the accused to 2 years in a penal colony settlement.

The advocate of the accused, Inal Nushevich Ioann, asked for ‘the most minimum punishment' for his client.

The Mother's Right Foundation lawyer stressed in her speech that the officials' fault did not belittle Jerekhov's fault. Jerekhov knew how to handle a gun (both he and the deceased took part in the ‘Summer War' against Georgia). The Mother's Right Foundation lawyer demanded that the accused receive a maximum penalty specified in the Criminal Code for such a crime - 5 years of imprisonment.

Judge Sergey Arkadyevich Mikhailuk announced the sentence: 3 years in a penal colony settlement.

This crime is one in a series of usual everyday crimes in the Russian Army and that's why it is so terrible. For many years, the Mother's Right Foundation has been speaking of harsher penalties for firearm crimes in the Army. We have to admit that the law is too indulgent towards military servicemen as far as this case category is concerned though it's just servicemen who should keep strictly to the gun handling rules - it's their profession.

We say it over and over again that alcohol is incompatible with the Army service. Military servicemen should stick to the ‘dry law', and those who are against this are, unfortunately, unfit for their job. The military service assumes access to arms and other sources of danger, as well as to young servicemen. In case of a real battle alarm, a serviceman takes a gun whether he is on duty or not. He can be called up to perform his military duties any time, and must be always fit for them.

Strict observation of the ‘dry law' should become a standard in the Army.

The Mother's Right Foundation's thanks the Pyatigorsk Hotel and its General Director for kind assistance.

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