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Three Belarusian Sergeants Go On Trial Over Death Of Conscript Who Complained Of Hazing

The three defendants (from left to right): Yauhen Baranouski, Anton Vyazhevich, and Yahor Skuratovich

MINSK -- Three Belarusian Army sergeants have gone on trial over the suspicious death of young conscript, Alyaksandr Korzhych, in October.

The Minsk Regional Court said on August 8 that Anton Vyazhevich, Yahor Skuratovich, and Yauhen Baranouski were charged with abuse of power and bribe-taking. Baranouski was also charged with theft.

Korzhych, 21, was found hanged in the basement of the infirmary of the Pechy military training base northeast of Minsk on October 3, less than five months after he was drafted. His feet were tied with a shoestring, and he had a t-shirt over his head.

His relatives say he complained of being the target of hazing by senior officers. He was mostly being pressurized for money by his superiors, relatives said.

Korzhych was the second conscript found hanged at an army base in Belarus in less than six months, sparking a debate about hazing in the army and calls for the defense minister's resignation.

The Investigative Committee initially said the cause of Korzhych's death was suicide, but after his family and human rights activists started a campaign urging authorities to investigate the death, the committee launched an investigation into violations of army regulations, abuse of authority, and fraud.

Hazing has been a serious problem in militaries throughout the former Soviet Union, with extortion frequently reported by victims.

In Belarus, 37 suicides were recorded in the army between 2008 and 2017, according to Defense Ministry statistics.

Media reports said that in 2017 alone there were four apparent suicides in the Belarusian armed forces.

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