DIFFERENT PRICES FOR SOLDIERS’ LIVES

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Konstantin Getmanskii Izvestia, August 28, 2002, p. 3

The government’s attitude toward the victims of the Kursk shipwreck and servicemen, who recently perished in the crash of an Mi-26 helicopter in Chechnya, differs, which shows that the federal government cares about its servicemen only when it can receive political dividends.

The number of servicemen who perished as a result of the crash of an Mi-26 helicopter in Chechnya reached 118 people on August 27. Contract sergeant Ruslan Khalikov, who was on board the helicopter on August 19, died in a Rostov hospital. The Kursk shipwreck killed the same number of people – 118 – two years ago. Both disasters killed people who were on duty at the moment of the tragedy. But it turned out that the government has announced different values for their lives.

Human life is priceless. However, the Russian legislation fixes the size of compensation, which the state pays if its servicemen die. Andrei Kazakov, a representative of the press service of Military Insurance Company, says: “Each relative – the wife, parents, or children – receives insurance, which amounts to 25 monthly wages. In addition, the state pays an immediate compensation equal to 120 monthly wages. This sum is divided between close relatives in equal shares.”

According to Andrei Kazakov, the families of servicemen, who have perished as a result of the crash of the Mi-26 helicopter, will receive around 182,000 rubles each. The families of contract servicemen will receive close to 300,000 rubles. Relatives of junior officers will receive over 500,000 rubles. Senior officers’ lives cost around 600,000 rubles. Relatives of two servicemen from Rostov-on-Don have already received the money.

The Cabinet does not plan to take additional measures to support the relatives of servicemen, who perished near Khankala. The government’s reaction after the Kursk shipwreck was somewhat different. In addition to insurance payments the relatives of each seaman received 720,000 rubles and an apartment. In addition, Mikhail Kasyanov ordered that 200 rubles a month be paid to children of the lost seamen, and that they be sent to the Orlenok and Ocean resorts every year. The Labor Ministry gave jobs to seamen’s relatives after they moved from Vidyayevo to other Russian cities.

Veronica Marchenko, chair of the Mother’s Right foundation, which defends the interests of lost servicemen’s relatives, thinks: “The government’s “love” to the families of the seamen of the Kursk submarine might be interpreted as the federal government’s concern and care about these people, if officials lavished care upon the parents of all soldiers who perish every day and night. However, the state’s love is not unselfish. The families of 50 servicemen, who perished on board the Kursk submarine, are sure that the government wanted to ransom itself. The federal government did not need unpleasant questions about the cause of the shipwreck.”

Veronica Marchenko says that the decision to pay compensation to the relatives of the seamen hurt the parents and relatives of soldiers and officers, who perished in Chechnya. Parents ask: “Is the death at 100 meters depth more awful that the death in a burning tank in Grozny?”

In addition to the state’s support, the relatives of the seamen received tidy sums from charitable foundations created in Murmansk and St. Petersburg. The staff of the North-Caucasian military district has also opened a special account. However, at present the situation differs from the consequences of the Kursk shipwreck.

Lieutenant colonel Yevgeny Krivosheyev, deputy chair of the press service of the North-Caucasian military district, says: “Scanty sums are transferred to the account. As a rule, private persons make donations.”

Psychologist Reynaldo Peres Lovelle says: “This happens because people consider death in a zone of conflict as a usual thing. The Kursk shipwreck during a routine exercise was an emergency situation in public opinion.”

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