20 October 2018, Saturday, 10:14
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The ‘Soldier’ Tariff


What if the secret information about the painted grass goes to the Germans?

Over a month passed since the terrible death of Private Korzhych in Pechy, and at the top of the news feed I read: "Soldiers in Pechy were allowed to have mobile phones around the clock." An important piece of news, surely. And even a good one, which is rare in our latitudes.

However, if for the soldiers' right to call home with their personal phone, rather than pay insolent sergeants for the permission to call, it was necessary to pay with Korzhych's life, then not only Defense Minister Raukou, but all other generals and colonels comfortably sitting in the center of the city, enjoying the view on Svislach, must retire or at least shoot themselves. While there is no corpse, no smell of blood, while they are not cursed by name — they do not understand. This is not even because of meanness: they just never switch on their brains because of laziness. And then suddenly they allow phones and report on the allocation of additional funds for the arrangement of a club and a canteen in Pechy. And the surveillance cameras.

They clumsily locked the barn door after the horse was stolen. Only, when they are wearing epaulets and red stripes, it won’t work to chalk it up to mental slowness. Where were you, when Aliaksnadr Korzhych, the only child in the family, was alive and told his mom that the value of a soldier’s life is Bn 15 per day, so as not to be killed?

I recall another soldier in another country, private in the Russian army, resident of Ekaterinburg Andrei Sychev. Ten years ago, he, unlike Korzhych, managed to survive. On the New Year’s night, drunk Sergeant Siviakov made him, the person who suffered from thrombophlebitis, stay in the deep half-knee bend position for three hours. As a result, Sychev had a positional squeezing of the lower extremities and genital organs, which turned into a gangrene. All said organs were amputated.

The then Minister of Defense of Russia, Ivanov, said: nothing serious had happened. Just like Minister Raukou on the Korzhych case. Now Sychev lives in a remote village. His family had to move from the large city — a disabled person in a wheelchair had nothing to do there. The army forgot about him, the same as the state. A drunken sergeant-monster, by the way, was sentenced to only four years in the general regime colony. For some reason it seems to me that Korzhych's killers will get even less.

Back then, they talked a lot in Russia that if Sychev had a mobile phone, his legs could have been saved: they took the soldier to the hospital only three days later. They apparently hoped everything would fade away by itself. What if he called his mother straightaway? Then, surely, he would be in hospital on the same day. And had a surgery in due course in time. Meanwhile, Sychev’s mother found out what happened to her son only because one of the doctors, horrified by the state in which the soldier was delivered from the military unit, contacted the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers. They told her nothing in the military unit, of course.

Back then, Novaya Gazeta together with the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee came up with a very simple idea, a social project called “Private Number”. The plan was as follows. The Defense Ministry buys cheap phones for the budget expense. Mobile operators hold a tender for the service and introduce the cheap tariff plan “Soldiers”. Each soldier is given a cell phone which will be with him 24/7 during the whole term of the army service. The sim-card will contain the numbers of the military prosecutor’s office, the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee, Novaya Gazeta, and the sms template “SOS” for instant sending. The sense is clear — a soldier’s phone is an alarm button.

Not surprisingly, the military rejected this idea. They approved it formally, but said it would require extra expenses, not provided for in the budget. The action “Private Number” never happened. The subscribers in the Defense Ministry appeared out of the coverage. The soldiers’ mothers were left alone. And they continue losing their children. Not just in the drunken barrack-room, but at war.

True, the Russian soldiers have been allowed to have mobile phones on them for seven years. Last year, human rights defenders launched even a mobile application “Army and the Law” with the function of an alarm button, which allows to report the threat of danger immediately. However, our HR defenders have no need to think about something similar, as the Belarusian soldiers are allowed to have outdated call-only cellphones, of some paleolite times, no smartphones are allowed.

Of course it’s done for the sake of secrecy: what if the information about the newly painted grass, or the commander’s dacha, would leak to the Germans? It’s needed to be on the alert, there’s no doubt about it. Meanwhile, the Israeli Ministry of Defense orders the newest smartphones with the high degree of protection and encrypting for the military men from Motorola, and finds $ 100 million for that — cunning Jews, right? Any Belarusian top military commander would say this, or at least think.

Of course, only the lazy has not recalled the Israeli army with its smartphones after the news about the highest generous permission of soldiers' phones in Pechy. But there is another reason to recall it after the tragedy in Pechy: Gilad Shalit. Do you remember the story of the Israeli soldier abducted in 2006 by the Palestinians? After five years of negotiations and special operations that were unsuccessful, Israel agreed to the conditions of Palestine and exchanged one soldier Shalit for 1027 Palestinians. 400 of them were convicted of terrorism. They were all released in exchange for a single prisoner.

Because there is no greater value in the Israeli army than the life of a soldier. And there is no less value in Belarus than human life.

Iryna Khalip, specially for Charter97.org