Family doubts Russian soldier officially committed suicide

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MOURMANSK, Russia – Two months after 20-year-old conscript Yegor Voronkin arrived at his post in Pechenga, Murmansk region, he was rushed to a hospital in the city of Severomorsk . For a month, he lay in a coma, fighting for his life. On October 5, he died, never regaining consciousness.

The military’s preliminary findings indicate that Voronkin died of ethylene glycol poisoning after drinking hydraulic fluid in a suicide attempt.

This is an explanation that Voronkin’s family categorically rejects. They say he intended to complete his military service, and then move to Moscow with his girlfriend.

“He called her almost every day,” the mother of the girlfriend, who asked to be identified only as Alina, told RFE / RL. “Lately they had been trying to persuade him to sign a military contract. He said he had no desire to do it – the salary was only 40,000 rubles ($ 570) and “everyone drinks”.

Voronkin last called on September 3, a day before he was hospitalized.

The tragedy only tarnishes the troubled reputation of the Pechenga military base, home of the 200th Motorized Infantry Brigade, just 11 kilometers from the Russian-Norwegian border. Three conscripts with the unit died a few days apart in February 2020. Officially, one committed suicide, one died of unspecified “natural causes” and a third was hit by a military vehicle driven by a drunken officer. Less than a month later, five soldiers were injured in an explosion during a live fire exercise.

In 2014, a 19-year-old conscript named Anatoly Noskov was found dead alongside an alleged suicide note in which he asked his family not to blame anyone for his death. His family, doubting the official account, arranged for a handwriting analysis, as a result of which it was discovered that another conscript wrote the note on the orders of the acting deputy commander of the unit. The officer got away with a reprimand.

The Pechenga base near Murmansk in northern Russia.

Voronkin’s death also comes at a time when the Russian military is becoming increasingly opaque. On October 1, the Federal Security Service (FSB) issued a long list of general topics which could lead to the designation of persons or organizations as “foreign agents” for research or writing. The list includes investigations into crimes committed in the military and “information on respect for the law and the moral and psychological climate within the armed forces”.

A few days later, the prominent NGO Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg announced that it was ceasing its activities of defending conscripts and investigating hazing due to “severe restrictions” imposed by the FSB list.

According to the official version of Voronkin’s case, on the morning of September 4, the conscript entered the officer quarters of his unit and found in a box under a bunk a plastic bottle that once contained mineral water but had been filled with POZh-70 hydraulic fluid. . It is an antifreeze and anticorrosive that is used in the braking systems of military vehicles.

At around 9:30 am, Voronkin “took the indicated bottle and took a sip of it, after which he returned it to its previous place,” the commission of inquiry wrote in its document on opening an investigation into a charge of “negligence”. ”, A copy of which was obtained by RFE / RL.

‘Nothing unusual’

The investigation committee document does not explain how this information was established. The conscript’s mother, Veronika Voronkina, told RFE / RL that there were no witnesses to the alleged incident and that Voronkin’s fingerprints were not found on the bottle.

The Defense Department‘s Center for Forensic and Criminal Analysis, which analyzed the contents of the bottle and released a report which was also obtained by RFE / RL, wrote that one of Voronkin’s conscripts said “that he met Voronkin… in the officers’ quarters and Voronkin told him he had drunk something containing alcohol. An officer from the unit said he could “not rule out” that Voronkin discovered the bottle while cleaning the room, according to the same report.

Several hours after the alleged POZh-70 swallow, Voronkin and other soldiers were dispatched by truck to receive their second coronavirus vaccines. Neither the soldiers with him nor the doctors who supervised the vaccinations noticed anything unusual. After receiving his blow, Voronkin returned to his unit and a few hours later he began to feel dizzy and weak. He threw up several times.

Voronkin was admitted to Pechenga hospital on the afternoon of September 4. According to the hospital report, he told doctors about his vaccination and how he started to feel bad. He did not mention drinking POZh-70 or any other substance. He was conscious and asked to speak with his mother.

Yegor Voronkin had only served in the military a few months before his untimely death.

Yegor Voronkin had only served in the military a few months before his untimely death.

“How did this poison get into his body?” Veronika Voronkina, who works as a nurse in a hospital in Murmansk, said. “Why was he throwing up? He didn’t complain about anything. They asked him what he had eaten and drunk. He said, nothing unusual.

In the early morning hours of September 5, Voronkin was transferred to Severomorsk Military Hospital after experiencing difficulty breathing from inhaling vomit. Her mother was informed of her illness later that day.

Voronkina said the medical staff in Severomorsk were “very good”, but felt that “precious time” had been lost while her son was in Pechenga hospital.

“Were they just watching him die?” ” she said. “Watching him fall into a coma?” … Couldn’t they position him correctly so he wouldn’t breathe his vomit? He repeatedly asked them to call me, but none of those bastards did. The base commander did not call me until 9 a.m. the next morning and told me that my son was in intensive care.

“A living corpse”

Mikhail Kutushov, a toxicologist and professor working in Hanover, Germany, told RFE / RL that the combination of POZh-70 and a reaction to the COVID vaccine could have caused Voronkin’s disease.

“A certain percentage of people suffer from fever and vomiting after the COVID vaccine,” Kutushov said. “In my opinion, it is not possible to be poisoned by a single sip of ethylene glycol, but we need to know the exact composition of POZh-70. It’s ethylene glycol based, but what else is added? If there are any military additions, then it’s hard to say.

Severomorsk’s doctors fought to save Voronkin for a month, but nothing helped.

“Within a month, my beautiful young Yegor turned into a living corpse,” Voronkina wrote in a social media posting. “And her mother must have been watching this when she visited him.”

From the start, Voronkina said, authorities were inclined to attribute her son’s death to “suicide”.

“Investigators called me and asked me if I thought it was suicide,” she said. “No. It wasn’t suicide. He had plans, a girlfriend waiting for him. He was a member of a group. In a few years, he planned to move to Moscow.

Voronkina said his son’s girlfriend also rejected the idea of ​​suicide, saying that on September 3 the couple again discussed their plans to move to Moscow and the pressure they had been under to sign a contract for additional military service.

Veronika Marchenko, president of Mother’s Rights, a non-commercial organization that supports conscripts and their families, told RFE / RL that suicide is often “the most practical explanation” for such events for the military.

“Of course, they don’t think much about the feelings of poor parents,” she said. “In our opinion, the more the army becomes a closed structure, the more the temptation will be to cover such cases and the more difficult it will be to establish the real causes of death of the soldiers. “

“The death of any soldier should be a tragedy not only for his family, but for all of our society,” she added.

The Investigation Committee opened an investigation into suspicion of negligence, but did not name any suspects. Voronkina urged the committee to investigate not only officers in Voronkin’s unit, but also medical staff at Pechenga hospital.

The Defense Ministry‘s Northern Fleet press office, which oversees the Pechenga military base, did not respond to RFE / RL’s request for comment.

Written by RFE / RL Senior Correspondent Robert Coalson, based on a report from Murmansk by Darya Morozko, a correspondent for the North.Realities Desk of the Russian RFE / RL service.


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