Alcohol, threats, unexpected suicides: Why Ukrainian military die despite truce?

Author : Iryna Shostak

Source : 112 Ukraine

Drunkenness, hazing, violation of military discipline, conflicts with the command and other military personnel are the scourges of the Ukrainian army, which sometimes lead to non-combat losses in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In May of this year, the pain of such a "non-combat loss" rocked another family. The official reason why the heart of the fighter of the 14th Mechanized Brigade Mykola Tavpich stopped is suicide, but his relatives suspect something else entirely
10:00, 24 May 2021

Open source

Why the relatives of Ukrainian servicemen, who died outside the battle, have to fight for the truth?

What happened to the soldier?

This year Mykola was supposed to be 32 years old. He has left two children from different marriages. The children were the main reason why Mykola decided to go into military affairs – he counted on benefits for paying for utilities and the primary enrollment of kids in kindergarten and school.

A year ago, on February 15, Mykola signed a contract and went to work. For six months the guy served in Volodymyr-Volynsky, and after the rotation, he headed east.

The service was going well until March 2021. Then the military man began to sound the alarm. In particular, on March 19, in messages to his second cousin, Mykola writes that they want to set him up and "shove" him under a tribunal. And a little later, he even reports threats. What exactly happened and who put pressure on the guy, the family still does not know – the brother who served with him is now being treated in the hospital after complications from the coronavirus.

But already on May 3, in his last message, Mykola warns - this time his wife - of possible death and clearly indicates the possible culprit. The next day, according to his wife, her husband called and said that he was sitting down to dine with his comrades, and then he would lie down to rest. It is not known whether there were other messages, calls, and photos, videos that would help to find out what really happened. The investigation was unable to unlock Nikolai's phone.

Already on May 4, at 15 o'clock in the afternoon, the soldier was gone. The platoon commander told the relatives of the deceased that in the afternoon he went out on business, and when he heard a shot, he returned and found the guy already dead.

The death of Mykola will continue to be called suicide due to a quarrel with his wife. However, relatives deny this fact. And colleagues suggest that Nikolai could have been blackmailed with certain photographs.

A car often came to the deployment of the military, filled with all kinds of "good" that the military is usually not allowed, especially during service. The guys refused to say who was in charge of these deliveries and whether the command was involved in this. But they clarified that a car "to order" could bring not only illegal food in the form of alcohol or drugs but also girls of easy virtue. What Mykola had to do with such deliveries: he knew under whose auspices the feast was taking place, or he himself used the services of a car (for which he was photographed), remains a mystery.

Materials remain a mystery

There are many inconsistencies in Mykola’s case. It is noteworthy that the guy's godfather, who served with him, informed his wife about the death of a friend an hour after the incident. However, the military claims that during the tragedy the man was allegedly being treated for alcohol addiction.

To raise the curtain and reveal what actually happened to Mykola, the data of the forensic medical examination could. But in order for the relatives of the military, who died not in combat, to gain access to the materials of the case, it is necessary to go through several circles of bureaucratic hell. The enemy is always to blame for combat losses, but in non-combat losses, one must look for the culprit among "our own".

Proving that Mykola did not commit suicide is not the main goal of the relatives of the deceased. They do not exclude this fact, but at the same time, they argue that if the guy nevertheless shot himself on his own, he was under pressure. This means that it is possible to attract the perpetrators under the article "Driving to suicide."

The military man-made plans, he wanted to make small repairs upon his return. And in the military unit itself, the relatives were told that the test that the guys take to identify signs of suicidal tendencies, Mykola went well.

But a few days before his death, on his Facebook page, the military man writes: "It is better to die while standing than to live on your knees."

There are many unknowns in this case, indicating its ambiguity. However, the relatives turned to not only for coverage of their own pain but also for the prevention of similar pain of other families. Indeed, there are many such "Mykola’s cases" in Ukraine. And who is responsible for them?

Non-combat vs. combat losses?

The statistics of non-combat losses during the Joint Forces Operation is frightening: last year, as a result of Donbas hostilities, 50 Ukrainian Armed Forces were killed, and as a result of other non-combat reasons – 79. An analysis of each of the tragedies in a single file reveals the problems of the Ukrainian army, which the military leadership tries not to talk about.

Drunkenness (even in the case of the deceased guy more than once we are talking about the "alcoholic permissiveness" of the military), improper handling of weapons, hazing, conflicts with the command and with each other – a thousand and one causes of death of the Ukrainian military outside the battlefield. They have one thing in common – weak military discipline.

“The main and only reason for non-combat losses is a violation of military discipline. And in this case, it is difficult to help relatives, even if it is possible to prove the fact of the command’s guilt in the context of not watching, and so on, no one will be fully responsible. a reprimand,” Oleg Zhdanov explains.

But there is another problem as well. Experts emphasize that it often happens when a large number of unsolved cases are attributed to drunkenness or suicide.

"The commanders keep silent about this so as not to spoil their reputation for further career service," the military expert adds.

In particular, we find several similar cases in a special report "In Search of Justice", which was prepared by the Center for Civil Liberties under the auspices of the Coalition of Public Organizations and Initiatives "Justice for Peace in Donbas".

The Shabratsky case. The guy was found dead on the territory of a military unit in the city of Lysychansk. Parents insisted that their son was killed, and this death is associated with his conflict with the de facto leadership of the company, based in Lysychansk at that time. This was also confirmed by his colleagues. However, the investigation closed the criminal proceedings on the death of the soldier.

The disappearance of the soldier Petrenko. A soldier of the 72nd separate mechanized brigade disappeared in October 2014 at night from the location of a military unit in the town of Volnovakha, Donetsk region. At the time of publication of the report (2016), the military man was reported missing. And his comrades-in-arms told the relatives that the guy had a conflict with the servicemen who were on the territory of their unit and even threatened him with physical harm.

The Kostakov case. The guy disappeared in November 2014 in the Donbas zone in the town of Volnovakha, Donetsk region. Sometime later, he was found dead. The day before, on his social networks, the guy published messages indicating an imminent conflict with his leadership. These include, inter alia, allegations of looting.

Conducting an official investigation into the possibility of the involvement of the leadership or soldiers of the battalions, ignoring the need for priority and urgent investigative actions, in particular a ballistic examination, by the pre-trial investigation authorities, and the lack of guarantees for the safety of witnesses are strategically thought-out obstacles on the way to exposing all the shortcomings of the Ukrainian army. Or in other words – the actual suppression of the truth for the benefit of their "stars on the shoulder straps." How can this be changed?

Control, control, and more control. According to experts, it is necessary to put the command in such a framework so that they understand that the concealment of any facts will incur not only deprivation of rank or dismissal without taking into account the length of service but also criminal liability. For this, it is necessary not only to radically reformat the structure of the Armed Forces of Ukraine but also to "clean up" it.

"We do not have an Institute for Public Control over the Ministry of Defense. There are no parallel branches of government, psychologists, chaplains. There is no Soldiers' Committee, Officer's Court of Honor. There are no other institutions that could control the commander," Zhdanov said.

Another important thing is the structure of the Military Law Enforcement Service. Today it is an administrative unit that has administrative powers and is part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. That is, the chief of the General Staff is in charge of two structures at once: the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Supreme Soviet.

"This should not be so. They should be part of the Ministry of Defense and be subordinate to the Minister of Defense, should have the right to conduct a pre-trial investigation and not be related to the Armed Forces. This creates another vertical of command and control over the command of the Armed Forces," the military expert explains.

Psychologists could become one of those levers of control over the command staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Preventing suicides, solving aggressive situations, regulating the atmosphere in the unit - these and other actions of a specialist could prevent dozens of deaths.

The military expert emphasizes that psychologists in the armies of the leading countries even have the right to remove the unit commander from duty if the soldiers complain about him before the reasons and circumstances are clarified.

"We have been conducting military operations for the seventh year, and we still do not have full-time psychologists in our divisions. I'm not talking about the system," Zhdanov adds.

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