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Alleged Russian Army Deserter's Trial Postponed


Andrei Popov

Andrei Popov

SARATOV, Russia -- A Russian military court has postponed the trial of a man charged with deserting the army more than a decade ago who claims to have been kidnapped, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The Saratov Garrison Military Court ruled that Andrei Popov cannot be kept in detention any longer as his age exceeds the maximum age for men liable for conscription. Popov was told not to leave Saratov until his trial resumes on January 20.

Popov, 30, went missing 11 years ago while serving his obligatory two-year military service in the Tatishchev military garrison in Saratov, which is in southwestern Russia.

Popov reappeared in his native town of Yershov in August. He claimed he had been kidnapped in 2000 and held for years as a slave laborer in a brick factory in the Russian republic of Daghestan.

He was detained on suspicion of desertion but released several days later and sent to a local military unit to continue his military service while his case was investigated.

During the investigation, Popov reportedly changed his story and said he had, in fact, deserted the army in 2000.

But local human rights activists say he was forced to make that confession.

Lidiya Sviridova, chairwoman of the Saratov branch of the Union of Soldiers' Mothers, told RFE/RL on January 10 that the investigation sought to incriminate Popov from the very beginning. She said the investigators did everything they could to "prove that Popov is guilty but did not investigate the case in an unbiased way."

Sviridova, an attorney, said she believes Popov was also pressured into not choosing her to be his lawyer.

Read more in Russian here and here

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