Trial Of 'Bullied' Russian Conscript Charged With Murdering Eight Opens

By RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service

CHITA, Russia -- The trial of Russian Army Private Ramil Shamsutdinov, who is accused of murdering eight fellow servicemen last year in what he claims was the result of his brutal hazing, has begun in the Siberian city of Chita.

Shamsutdinov's lawyer, Ruslan Nagiyev, said on Facebook that the high-profile trial started on November 23 at the Second Military District Court in Chita.

He said journalists were allowed to take pictures at the start, and then asked to leave the courtroom due to a lack of space because of the high number of spectators present.

The court selected the jury for the trial last week after an initial attempt in late October failed.

On October 25, 2019, Shamsutdinov shot eight military servicemen, including two high-ranking officers, in the town of Gorny in the Zabaikalye region. He was arrested soon after and charged with murder.

The case shocked many in Russia and attracted the attention of rights activists after Shamsutdinov claimed that he committed the act after suffering a nervous breakdown caused by the brutal hazing and torture he had endured.

The Defense Ministry accepted at the time that Shamsutdinov "had a conflict" with one of the officers he killed. In March, Private Ruslan Mukhatov was found guilty of bullying Shamsutdinov and was handed a suspended two-year prison term.

On September 23, the Investigative Committee said Shamsutdinov pleaded guilty to murder charges.

Nagiyev told RFE/RL that the defense team will try to persuade the jury that Shamsutdinov was in a deep state of psychological stress caused by bullying and torture when he committed the act.

Deadly shootings in Russian military units as the result of widespread hazing have been a focus of human rights organizations for years.

Earlier this month, a soldier at a military air base in the western region of Voronezh shot an officer and two soldiers dead.

In recent years, photos and video footage have been posted online by members of the Russian military that show the severe bullying of young recruits as they are inducted into the army.

With reporting by