Driven to the end of their tether with hazing, two Russian army privates have applied for asylum to Georgia's Ombudsman. Older soldiers had repeatedly battered the boys to make them procure liquor and cigarettes even by stealing, if need be, Leonid Filippenko and Dmitri Kogtev of a Tbilisi-stationed security battalion said to a news conference in the Ombudsman's office. The boys deserted in fear and desperation, April 29, to hide in the city. They eventually found refuge with a charitable Georgian family who addressed the Ombudsman for help. Dmitri and Leonid showed their appalling bruises to a shocked audience. "I cannot pack the boys off back to the Russian Army--only to ambassadorial or consular officers, and even that only after I have exhaustive guarantees of their safety," said Ombudsman Nana Devdariani. She has every right to do so as the outrage took place in her own country, reassured the commissioner. Alexander Lutskevich, chief of PR on the Russian contingent in Transcaucasia, is throwing mud at the maltreated boys. They are seeking refuge with the Ombudsman to escape liability for crime. As he alleges, Leonid Filippenko was caught red-handed in stealing money from doctors and nurses while in hospital, while Dmitri Kogtev was repeatedly absent without leave. Mr. Lutskevich says he regrets that Miss Devdariani does not find his guarantees of the soldiers' safety sufficient, and intends to pass them to civilians in the Russian Embassy. Russian military authorities pledge to thoroughly check the boys' complaints and take necessary measures.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea