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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 15:21 GMT
Nine die in paratroop gun rampage
Russian paratroops resting in Chechnya
Life for Russian soldiers can be harsh
Two Russian paratroopers have been shot dead after a gun rampage in the republic of Tartarstan which left nine people dead.

The dead included five policemen - three of whom died in a final shootout with the soldiers in Buinsk.

The two paratroopers, aged 20 and 21, had deserted their barracks near the town of Ulyanovsk, armed with Kalashnikov rifles.

The gun rampage was the latest in a long series of incidents which have highlighted the harsh conditions faced by servicemen.


We have to find out what pushed them to commit such a terrible crime

Colonel Nikolai Shecherbakov
The two paratroopers killed their first victims - a policemen and two civilians - as they fired at a roadblock from a car they had stolen.

Another motorist was later killed as they hijacked his vehicle.

The two servicemen have been identified as Almaz Shageyev and Mikhail Sukhorukov.

"We have to find out what pushed them to commit such a terrible crime," said Colonel Nikolai Shecherbakov, part of a committee investigating the incident.


Some say one of the boys received a letter from his girlfriend telling him she was getting married to someone else

Tartarstan Interior Ministry
One theory is that a failed relationship sparked the rampage.

"Some say one of the boys received a letter from his girlfriend telling him she was getting married to someone else," said a spokesman for Tartarstan Interior Ministry.

"But officially, we do not know what their motive was."

Bullying, poor pay and poor conditions combine to create a miserable existance for many young conscripts in Russia's armed forces - although the elite paratroops are generally seen as better off than most.

One campaign group, Soldiers' Mothers, says as many as 40,000 conscripts a year become conscientious objectors or deserters, 3,500 die each year from beatings, malnutrition and disease, and around 500 soldiers commit suicide.

See also:

21 Jun 01 | Europe
Bear sniffs out Russian deserter
10 Jan 00 | Europe
Can Russia win the Chechen war?
17 Jan 00 | Europe
Chechens 'buy off' Russian troops
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