Russian deserter dodged arrest for 14 years

Call-up of conscripts, Sochi, Russia, 2019 Image copyright Russian Defence ministry
Image caption Russia calls up conscripts twice a year

A deserter from the Russian army has given himself up after evading arrest for nearly 15 years.

Private Nikolai Akhmineyev walked off the Naro-Fominsk army base south-west of Moscow, where he was performing his national service in July 2004, and didn't look back, military prosecutors say.

"He had only served a couple of months in his tank unit when he suddenly disappeared. The army searched for him for years, but he never even turned up at home," Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reports.

Image copyright Commons
Image caption The famous Kantemirov Tank Division is based in Naro-Fominsk

The truth emerged this January, when the missing soldier unexpectedly handed himself in.

He told the military police that he'd headed straight to Moscow and got a job as a janitor.

"He managed for two years in the capital without identity papers, then moved out to the wider Moscow Region, where he took casual work where he found it - on building sites, or as a porter down the market," the paper says.

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A military tribunal sentenced the 32-year-old to 30 months in one of Russia's low-security open prisons, which are mainly located in the remote forests of the far north or east, the local Podmoskovye Segodnya news site reports.

Komsomolskaya Pravda reckons former Private Akhmineyev got off lightly, as deserters can face up to seven years in jail.

The tribunal says it took his voluntary surrender into account in sentencing, but a source close to the investigation told the paper that they had found "no evidence to back up his allegation that bullying had driven him to desert".

The source added that long-time desertion is rare, and Moscow Region has only registered one or two cases a year of offenders remaining at large for more than a few days before being caught.

But Private Akhmineyev still has a long way to go to beat Russia's most recent penitent deserter.

Junior Sergeant Sergei Trofimov turned himself in February 2018 after 26 years on the run from his army base in Chita in the far east, Izvestia newspaper reported at the time.

Image copyright Russian defence ministry
Image caption Military service is compulsory for Russian males

Reporting by Howard Gethin and Martin Morgan

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