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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"President Putin promised a 20% salary increase for the armed forces"
 real 56k

Vladimir Andreyev, Russian Diplomat
"No-one tries to stop her from expressing her feelings"
 real 56k

The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"Some of the women were overcome with emotion"
 real 56k

Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Angry Kursk relative drugged
Angry relative being held by naval officer
"I'll never forgive you!" the woman screamed
The Russian authorities have been filmed apparently using a sedative to silence a particularly vocal critic among angry relatives of the Kursk sailors.

The incident happened during a heated meeting between the relatives and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov at the Kursk's base in Vidyayevo, near Murmansk, on Wednesday.

woman trying to calm grieving relative
The woman in the white coat appeared to be a first aid worker

Video footage shows a woman apparently trying to calm a grieving woman who is being restrained by uniformed naval personnel as she demands to know the truth.

"Why did he die? He served for 25 years! I'll never forgive you!" the grieving relative shouted.

The woman who appeared to be giving first aid is then seen holding a syringe, which she appears to plunge into the grieving woman behind her back.

Naval officer restraining woman
Naval officers moved in when the woman began haranguing officials

Seconds later the widow - still being restrained by naval officers - collapses, apparently under the influence of a powerful sedative.

The footage was shot by a Murmansk television cameraman, Alexander Glokov. He told the BBC that soon after the incident the authorities ejected him from the hall.

The hall was packed with naval officers in anticipation of some emotional scenes, he said.

The BBC correspondent Orla Guerin says the incident carried echoes of a past from which Russia has not yet fully escaped.

woman with syringe beside grieving woman
The woman in the white coat is seen holding a syringe

She says the woman may have needed medical help, but the drug was apparently administered without her consent.

Dissidents in the Soviet Union were sometimes given powerful drugs normally only reserved for people suffering genuine mental illness.

Neither officials of the Russian Northern Fleet nor the Russian Defence Ministry were willing to comment on the incident, our correspondent says.

A Russian embassy official, Vladimir Andreyev, told the BBC it was "nonsense" to claim that Russia was reverting to old traditions of silencing dissent.

He said the "wrong medical practice may have been used in this case," but it was "not a violation of human rights".

doctors with woman who fainted
Bereaved relatives are getting constant medical attention

The BBC's Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel says it is common practice in Russia to sedate hysterical people without their consent.

Attempts to tie the incident in with a return to Soviet KGB practices are though wide of the mark, he says.

Relatives of the dead sailors have had doctors and nurses close by all the time, the BBC's Rob Parsons reports from Murmansk. Some people were sedated when the medical staff deemed it necessary.

About 150 bereaved relatives held an emotional memorial ceremony in the Barents Sea on Thursday, lowering flowers into the waters where the Kursk sank on 12 August.

Mr Andreyev said the Russian Government was ready to answer all the bereaved relatives' questions about the disaster.

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See also:

23 Aug 00 | Media reports
Sombre media continues to question
23 Aug 00 | Media reports
The crew of the Kursk
22 Aug 00 | Europe
Kursk's final hours
22 Aug 00 | Scotland
Kursk bodies recovery planned
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