From the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester to the mountainous Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, Russia has thousands of troops stationed in other former Soviet republics.
As the trial of a Russian private accused of slaughtering an entire Armenian family in January gets under way in Gyumri on August 12, RFE/RL takes a look at some of the worst crimes Russian soldiers have been accused of committing abroad, off the battlefield.
Russian soldiers charged with crimes in what Moscow likes to call its “near abroad” are usually tried by Russian garrison military courts rather than being handed over for trial in the host country.
September 2009, Tajikistan
Two Russian soldiers, Vyacheslav Chernov and Dmitry Kuchma, were arrested on suspicion of murdering a Tajik police captain named Amur Murodov who was moonlighting as a taxi driver. According to the Tajik prosecutor, Murodov had been driving the pair from Dushanbe to Kurgan-Tyube in the south.
Fergana News reported that the soldiers confessed and that the killing occurred after an argument. It said soldiers at Russia’s 201st military base in Tajikistan often receive their wages late, meaning that soldiers and the drivers who shuttle them around on leave often work with a system of IOUs, leading to tensions.
January 2012, Moldova
About six and a half hours into the year 2012, a Russian soldier dispatched as a peacekeeper to monitor the border zone between breakaway Transdniester and the rest of Moldova shot and killed an 18-year-old Moldovan citizen. At 6:30 a.m., having already reportedly ignored peacekeepers at the checkpoint that night, the Moldovan man drove through a checkpoint without stopping, at which a Russian soldier opened fire from an assault rifle. The man was hospitalized and later died from his wounds.
Russia opened an inquiry but later dropped the case, judging the soldier to have acted correctly, although the killing prompted Chisinau to call on Russia to remove its peacekeepers. Vlad Filat, then prime minister, was quoted as saying that "there was no reason for the murder. The criminal must be punished."
April 2014, Crimea
A month after Russia took over Crimea and annexed it from Ukraine, Yevgeny Zaitsev, a Russian soldier, was accused of fatally shooting Stanislav Karachevsky, a Ukrainian soldier who was preparing to leave the peninsula for mainland Ukraine. Zaitsev was reportedly sentenced to two years in prison by a garrison military court for the shooting in April 2015.
August 2015, Tajikistan
The Russian military base’s garrison court in Tajikistan began the trial of two Russian soldiers who are also charged with murdering a Tajik taxi driver. Fyodor Basimov and Ildar Sakhapov were arrested in August 2014 after the body of Rakhimdzhon Teshaboyev was found by a lake with his throat slit.
RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports that Basimov is believed to have owed Teshaboyev 50,000 rubles ($780). The 36-year-old taxi driver who earned his keep shuttling soldiers to and from the base is survived by his three children. In October 2012, Russia signed an agreement to retain its military base in Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan, until 2042.
January 2015, Armenia
On August 12, 19-year-old Russian conscript Valery Permyakov goes on trial at a Russian garrison military court at Russia’s in Armenia on charges of desertion with arms, stealing of firearms and ammunition, and illegally carrying weapons. After that trial, he is to be handed over to Armenian courts to be tried on charges of murdering seven members of a family on January 12 in the northwestern city of Gyumri, where Russia’s 102nd military base is located. The victims included a 2-year-old girl and a 6-month-old boy. The crime sparked violent protests in Gyumri and the capital, Yerevan.
June 2015, Armenia
When the body of a Russian soldier was found with knife wounds and signs of rape near the Russian military base in Gyumri, some suspected it was a savage revenge killing by members of a local community reeling from the butchering of an entire family. Instead, a spokesman for the 102nd Russian military base announced that the main suspect was also a Russian serviceman from the base. It has prompted calls in even pro-Kremlin media to address the rash of violent homicides linked to the base in Armenia.