POLICE HAVE APPREHENDED an army deserter who hid in a forest in eastern Russia for more than a decade and kept his whereabouts secret from even his family, regional authorities said today.
The 30-year-old man, whose identity was not made public, was drafted into the military in 2003 and was stationed in the remote Kamchatka peninsula for one year before fleeing the army’s ranks, police said.
“He lived in Kamchatka all this time, mainly hiding in the forest,” the regional branch of the interior ministry said in a statement. “He got by with odd jobs and did not attempt to get in touch with his family.”
The search for the deserter, who hails from the southern Russian city of Taganrog, was stopped when his family erroneously identified a dead body as that of their missing relative a few months after his disappearance, the statement said.
TASS news agency reported that the deserter’s family had even buried that body thinking it belonged to their missing loved one.
The soldier would have deserted because of “family problems”, TASS quoted regional authorities as saying.
The deserter reportedly had built himself a home out of old construction materials on the outskirts of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and made a living by working on a private pig farm and collecting scrap, among other odd jobs.
Soldiers found guilty of desertion can face up to seven years in prison under Russian law. In 2003, mandatory military service lasted two years, a duration which has since been reduced to a year.
Valentina Melnikova, the head of Russia’s Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, told AFP she doubted the soldier would receive prison time for his offence.
“There were lots of deserters in those days in the Far East. We’ve had cases when some would hide in a basement for years, but they would go through a psychiatric examination and would be set free,” she said.
The Chief Military Prosecutor’s office did not reply to a request for comment.