Russian soldier gets 4 years in prison for abusing colleague

A Russian military court sentenced a soldier to four years in prison Tuesday for abuse of a colleague that led to the amputation of the victim's legs and genitals, closing a shocking case that threw a harsh spotlight on persistent brutality in the Russian military.

Andrei Sychev, an 18-year-old private at the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy in the Ural Mountains region, was beaten and tortured by fellow servicemen on New Year's Eve, causing severe injuries and a gangrenous infection that led to the amputations, prosecutors said. He remains in a Moscow military hospital, undergoing treatment for recurrent infections nine months after the attack.

Alexander Sivyakov denied causing Sychev any harm on that day, though he apologized for beating two other soldiers in December, Russian media reported. Prosecutors had demanded a six-year prison term for Sivyakov five years for abusing Sychev and one year for five other instances of abuse.

The Chelyabinsk military court on Tuesday found Sivyakov guilty of abuse of power that led to severe bodily harm, and sentenced him to four years in prison, court spokesman Alexei Lysakov said. The two other defendants, Pavel Kuzmenko and Gennady Bilimovich, received suspended sentences of 1 1/2 years followed by a year of probation. Sivyakov was also stripped of his rank of junior sergeant, and will be unable to hold commanding posts for three years, Lysakov said.

Sychev's lawyer, Yevgeny Belov, said his client would appeal the sentence within the required 10 days because the sentence was too light for the injuries inflicted.

"In fact, the man's (Sychev's) life has been crippled," he said in comments broadcast on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Sychev's sister, Marina Muffert, agreed.

"We hoped the sentence would be at least five years, but not four. Four is just horrible ... his life has been ruined," she said.

The trial, which lasted three months, was plagued by controversy, with doctors contesting each other's testimony. Military doctors contended Sychev's condition was caused by a hereditary disease, while civilian doctors said it was the result of beatings he suffered and being forced to spend hours in an unnatural position, reports AP.

The case caused an uproar in Russian society, with rights groups and liberal politicians renewing calls for the government to end the unpopular draft and form an all-volunteer army. The Kremlin has refused to abandon conscription.

All Russian men between 18 and 27 are required to serve at least two years in the armed forces, though many avoid the draft through medical or educational exemptions or bribery.