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Friday, January 25, 2008

Kozlovsky Speaks!

Oborona reports on an interview of Oleg Kozlovsky from the Russian press, a Ryazan tabloid called "Pokoleniye" ("Generation") complete with a photograph of Oleg taken during his illegal internment with the Russian miltary at a Ryazan base (LR staff translation, not by our expert consultants, corrections welcome):

GENERATION: Tell us, in a nutshell, your current status:

OLEG KOZLOVSKY: I'm to undergo a second medical evaluation by experts in Moscow to confirm the results of the first, done here in Ryazan. I expect the Moscow results to be the same, if there is no external pressure. I hope to learn the results on Monday. It seems the High Command is riveted by my activities and I am constantly monitored. A Lieutenant-General has followed me throughout the course of my medical screening, reporting back to his superiors. His rank alone shows my significance to the authorities and the fact that the interest runs to the highest levels. I am constantly asked by my superiors why the outside world is paying so much attention to me. It's become clear to me that I have widespread support in my plight, and that many are shocked by the manner in which I was brought here. To accomplish this legally would have required many months of bureaucratic activity, you see.

Tell us what happened when you were seized.

On the morning of December 20, 2007, I left the place where I'd spent the night (it's not my permanent address) and encountered a uniformed law enforcement officer, who said that I should go with him in the Izmailovksy Military Enlistment Office to "solve a few problems." I had been to that office many times in the past to deal with bureaucratic issues regarding my military paperwork, so I had no reason to think I would be kidnapped. I went with the officer to his police cruiser and found there two more men in plain clothes. I asked them who they were and they said they were employees of the enlistment office. None of them would show me their identity documents. I was later informed that the two in plain clothes were FSB agents.

I was informed that I had to immediately present myself for medical examination. In informed them of my status as a reserve officer and full-time student, indicating this made me ineligible for induction, but they persisted, telling me that. Employees military enlistment assured me that this examination was "only a formality" and that afterwards I would be allowed to return home. My first thought was that they simply wanted me off the street for a little while in light of the pending elections, but then I soon realized that the matter was much more serious. I was able to pass a brief message to my colleagues at Oborona, then was rushed through a medical review (it took all of 15 minutes) and smuggled out a rear entrance to the induction barracks in the Moscow suburbs. The military vehicle that transported me to the barracks was accompanied by a police vehicle using lights and sirens to clear the way and make the transit as rapid as possible.

What happened after you got to the barracks?

As soon as I arrived I was brought before the commanding officer. After explaining my situation to him, he agreed to send me to a Moscow hospital for reexamination and assessment of my medical condition. No sooner had I arrived there, however, when several soldiers appeared, accompanied by some plain clothes agents driving a black Volga, seized me and transported me to Ryazan. I was not given the opportunity to inform my family of my removal.

What happened when you got to Ryazan?

At first I was placed in a tiny unit stationed far out in the countryside, far from the nearest village, obviously covering their tracks. But after speaking with the staff there I was able to obtain my transfer to a military hospital in the city.

It all seems to have occurred with remarkable speed.

Yes, what occurred in my case usually requires a much longer period for the ordinary soldier. Obviously, they needed me out of Moscow as soon as possible. However, my colleagues immediately filed a complaint calling for an investigation of the Izmailovsky office, and although I have no illusions about its prospects for success I retain the hope that justice will prevail and those responsible will be held accountable.

How were you treated at the Ryzan hospital?

I cannot complain, they've gone by the book, conducting themselves with honor and seeking to rectify the transgressions of their Moscow colleagues.

How long do you expect to stay here?

The documents say that a decision should be made on Monday. If the Moscow forces do not interfere, I will be discharged.

How do you explain what's happened to you?

I can't, nobody can. But I'm not the only person who's been victimized by conscription, there are many others. I've been able to protect myself and demand justice, but many others have not been so lucky. In fact, we don't even know they exist. I would like to add that this incident won't change my political activity, I'll continue it. In fact, it only increases my confidence and commitment that I'm on the right path, because somebody wants to put me off it.

Although your experience has been brief, what are your impressions of service in the Russian Army?

The Army is in crisis. Rather than reform it and fill it with recruits who truly wish to serve, the Ministry of Defense is ignoring its needs and relying on involuntary conscription. And this applies equally to the officer corps. Is it possible to force a person to put forth his best efforts? I think not.

What will you do after you are discharged?

I will not let the matter drop. I will pursue all means of legal redress to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. If the Izmailovsky office will not admit that their actions were ordered from above, then they must bear the full brunt of responsibility.

Any final thoughts?

I would like to express my appreciation to all those who have supported me, who have filed appeals on my behalf and who have demanded my release. All those who have gone to the streets to protest on my behalf. I thank you, all those who have not deserted me! And I urge all young people in Russia to stand up and fight for their rights and never bow down before the arbitrary actions of our bureaucrats.

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