Russian military bullying case: victim with hereditary illness loses his legs

Other doctors who treated Andrei Sychev, an 18-year-old conscript, have testified previously that the amputations he underwent in January had resulted from beating and torture. Prosecutors said that older soldiers forced Sychev to spend hours in an unnatural crouched position and brutally beat him on New Year's Eve in the barracks at the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy in the Ural Mountains region.

But top doctors from the Burdenko Military Hospital in Moscow said Monday during the trial of soldiers accused of abusing Sychev that the victim had suffered from thrombophlebitis, Sychev's lawyer Yevgeny Belov said, according to RIA Novosti news agency.

Thrombophlebitis is a condition that occurs when a blood clot causes inflammation in veins, usually in the legs, and it involves hereditary factors in some patients, the AP reports.

The Burdenko hospital's chief, Gen. Vyacheslav Klyuzhev, also told the Chelyabinsk Military Court Friday that genetic tests had shown that in Sychev the illness had a hereditary nature, the daily Gazeta said Monday.

The new testimony could help the Defense Ministry deflect public criticism over the case, which spotlighted rampant abuse of young conscripts in the Russian military.

Russia's top prosecutor said earlier this month that 17 servicemen died from bullying in the first half of 2006 and another 120 were injured. Overall, more than 3,500 servicemen have been subjected to bullying, Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said.