File photo of Russia military troops. Photo Credit: Fars News Agency
Moscow Obstructing Families Of Soldiers Killed In Ukraine Getting Promised Payments – OpEd
By Paul Goble
Kremlin propagandists have trumpeted the fact that Vladimir Putin has arranged for the surviving relatives of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine to get what are enormous insurance payments, but rights activists say that the regime is erecting a variety of illegal obstacles to keep families from getting that money.
Still worse, they say, Russian commanders are using informal language as a means of hiding whether this or that soldier has been killed, in complete violation of Russian law which specifies that only a court can declare someone whose remains have not been recovered dead (zona.media/article/2022/04/28/missing).
And assembling the necessary documents from the military commissariats to claim the insurance payout or even to know for sure that someone has died can take months or even years, leaving families in limbo and unable to achieve closure about the loss of their fathers, husbands and sons.
According to lawyers working with the Soldiers’ Mothers committees, the most egregious form of violation of the law is the Russian military’s regular use of the term, “absent from any report” of either those dead of still alive. That term has no basis in Russian law but is being used as if it does.
The more correct term is missing in action without any report. But families given the other term are put in a catch 22 situation. No court has acted or can act on the basis of the declaration the military is giving but the military and its commissariats aren’t prepared to do anything to help them get the correct as opposed to the incorrect term.
Leaders of the Soldiers’ Mothers groups say that ever more Russians are turning to them for help in this regard, a major shift that by itself points to this as a growing problem, one that will become ever worse as Russian losses continue to mount. This self-inflicted wound may come to harm the Russian powers that be far more than any real wounds they’re covering up.
Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at email@example.com .
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