2009/06/29 " 'Back Massage’ Cost Military Unit 400,000 Roubles"
  • Press Release No. 56/1199
  • 29/06/2009

Today, June 29, the Krasnoguardeisky District Court, Saint Petersburg, completed consideration of a moral damage compensation claim filed by the Mother's Right Foundation on behalf of Ludmila Vladimirovna Gromova, aunt of the deceased serviceman from Orel. Her nephew, Denis Panasenko (b. 1987),  was called up to military service from the town of Orel on November 16, 2006  and served in Military Unit No. 43117, Saint Petersburg. On July 19, 2007, he died in hospital of multiple physical injuries received after his fall from the fifth floor of the unit's building. The investigation established that Nikolai Rodionov, Denis' older fellow serviceman, constantly humiliated him using brute force. Denis Panasenko threw himself out of the window in the presence of Rodionov because the latter demanded that Denis give him a ‘back massage'. (The witnesses in the case explained to the court that any serviceman would see such a demand as an abuse and humiliation.) Rodionov gave a look at Denis lying on the ground... and went to sleep. Denis lied on the ground with no medical care all night long. The next morning his fellow servicemen found him; he was still alive and taken to hospital but they were not able to save him. On July 19, 2007, he died of his traumas without recovering consciousness.

Rodionov was charged under section 3, article 335 of the RF Criminal Code. It was the aunt of the deceased who was recognized as a victim in the case. When Denis joined the Army, he was an orphan - his mother had died of an incurable disease. The Mother's Right Foundation represented the interests of the aunt of the deceased in the trial. On December 13, 2007, the Saint Petersburg Garrison Military Court sentenced Rodionov to 4.5 years of imprisonment.

After that, the Mother's Right Foundation demanded that Military Unit No. 43117 pay the aunt of the deceased a compensation for the moral damage caused by Denis' death. The interests of Ludmila Vladimirovna Gromova were represented by the Mother's Right Foundation lawyer, Tatiana Sladkova. The legal proceedings started in March 2009 (the previous court sessions were held on March 24, May 6, and June 23, 2009). During these sessions we heard different arguments of the representative of the guilty unit, Deputy Commanding Officer, Leutenant Denis Alexeyevich Khoroshin, on why the unit ‘was not' to pay for the death of Denis Panasenko. On May 6, 2009, the Commanding Officer of the unit, Terentiev, came to the court to give a colourful description of Rodionov's being a bad and undisciplined soldier. When he realised that his arguments were not convincing, he declared that the documents submitted to the court by Gromova were forged, that the aunt of the deceased had selfish interests, and that Gromova had benefited from her nephew's death because she and her daughter, Denis'only relatives, had inherited his apartment. (!) He said that the compensation money would not help her, that all the same her health would become worse with age, while the unit would suffer and lose a chance to develop after paying the compensation. There would have been no end to Terentiev's speech but for the judge who stopped him.

The court session of June 23, 2009 was attended by the aunt of the deceased. She told about the suffering caused by her nephew's death: ‘The death of Denis made me remember all the sufferings I had endured before. When I was forty, I lost my husband; when I was forty two, I lost my twenty two year old son; I lost my sister when she was only forty four. Denis' death dealt the final blow. How am I to survive all this? After son's death Denis became my son. He spent his childhood and adolescence in our family and I tried to give him all I could. I did worry about him. Denis' death was a shock to me, my health got worse. I lost my child twice. I bore responsibility for Denis before my late sister and my conscience. I could have arranged that Denis should not join the Army, but he was willing to serve his Motherland and only after that go on with his studies and sporting career, so I supported him on the matter.' Her words were confirmed by a witness, Svetlana Anatolievna Voroshilova, who had arrived from Orel to testify in Court.

Today's session was attended by another representative of the unit. This time it was the Deputy Commander for Educational Work of M.U. No. 43117, Major Ivan Vasilievich Varnavsky. He told the court about their wonderful educational work among the unit's serviceman and various excursions to historic places. He said that the unit did this work spending its own finances. In the situation of the economic crisis, the unit would not have enough money to do this interesting work after paying out the compensation. During his speech, the Deputy Commander for Educational Work got carried away by his own story: when he was telling about Rodionov who was guilty for Panasenko's death, he gave him good references, ‘Rodionov had no record of misconduct.'

Among the others who worked on the trial were the Federal Treasury Board representative, Ainul Ergalievna Iskanderova (who said that the Military Unit should pay for the accident) and the Prosecutor of the Krasnoguardeisky District, Saint Petersburg, Julia Vladimirovna Yanchenko. The latter supported the Mother's Right Foundation's position declaring that the unit must pay under the claim; she asked the court to satisfy the claim for the sake of reason and justice.

During the pleadings, the Mother's Right Foundation lawyer, Tatiana Sladkova, noted that the unit's representatives were so confused that they gave Rodionov quite different references - contradicting each other. It's obvious that today's representative of the unit gave good references to Rodionov to avoid the civil responsibility under the claim. The commanding officers of the unit did not provide the execution of the requirements of article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the state's obligations to guarantee a person's right to life) and the corresponding articles of the Russian Law valid at the moment of Denis Panasenko's death. The commanding officers did not take measures to restore law and order in the unit thus encouraging hazing. The Mother's Right Foundation lawyer expressed her opinion on the Deputy Commanding Officer's words about the economic crisis and their fear to lose money under the claim. ‘Owing to the military unit,' said Tatiana Sladkova, ‘the country lost a taxpayer and Denis' unborn children. This loss is more substantial for the Treasury.'

After hearing the parties, judge Olga Vladimirovna Vladimirova delivered a judgement according to which Military Unit No. 43117 was ordered to pay 400,000 roubles to the aunt of the deceased. Also, the unit is to pay the aunt of the deceased 22,000 roubles as compensation for the material damage caused by her nephew's death.

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