Russian officer on trial after soldiers ‘bribe him to be sent to Syria’
A Russian officer is facing legal action for allegedly accepting bribes from fellow officers and soldiers to have them deployed to Syria, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on Tuesday.
Major Nikolai Zekin was commissioned by the Russian army leadership to select "trustworthy soldiers" to be sent to Syria.
However, he is accused of turning the operation into a racket, charging senior officers 50,000 roubles ($700) and junior officers and soldiers 15,000 roubles ($212) for the privilege of being sent to Syria, where they can earn more lucrative salaries.
Another officer, Anton Danilovsky, was also allegedly involved in the bribery racket and had made 140,000 roubles ($2,000) as a result, while Zekin had earned 340,000 roubles ($4,800), Kommersant reported.
Danilovsky lost his rank as captain and was previously sentenced to 18 months in prison for accepting the bribes. Land belonging to him was also confiscated in lieu of the money he had made.
Zekin’s trial will take place on Friday after being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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According to Kommersant, Russian soldiers in Syria are paid a salary of 200-300,000 roubles ($2,800-4,200) according to their rank. They can also make money in other ways and receive veteran status and other priveliges.
In 2018, the Russian defence ministry said that 63,000 soldiers had taken part in operations in Syria ever since Russia intervened militarily in the war, backing Bashar Al-Assad's regime in 2015.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in Russian airstrikes in Syria and human rights groups have accused the Russian military of targeting schools, hospitals and other civilian areas.