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Russia: Army Deserters Kill Nine

Moscow, 5 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Two Russian paratroopers who deserted their base yesterday killed nine people before being shot to death by police overnight in Tatarstan. Interior Ministry officials in Tatarstan said the two soldiers shot to death five policemen and four civilians in a series of clashes before being cornered and killed.

A ministry official said one of the deserters, Sergeant Almaz Shageyev, was killed late yesterday and the second, Mikhail Sukhorukov, died in the village of Cherki Grishino early today.

The two paratroopers had deserted their base near the Volga River city of Ulyanovsk early yesterday and commandeered a series of vehicles, firing at pursuing police and bystanders with their Kalashnikov assault rifles.

They reached the neighboring region of Tatarstan, where police penned them in a gunfight at a railway station late last night and killed one of the deserters, according to a Tatarstan police spokesman.

The second deserter, Sukhorukov, fled and hid out in an empty private home in the nearby village of Cherki Grishino. Tatarstan Deputy Police Chief Rakhil Nagumanov said on ORT television that it was unclear whether Sukhorukov had been killed by police or shot himself.

Desertions, shootings, and suicides have become increasingly common in the cash-strapped and demoralized Russian military.