The Russian soldiers Nikolay Zverev and Alexey Chebanov will have to pay the state treasury 31 million rubles (nearly $500,000), according to a ruling by the Crimean Garrison Military Court, which partially upheld a lawsuit by the Russian Defense Ministry. The court ruled that the defendants’ actions caused damage to the state, and found them guilty of breaking the rules for handling weaponry that poses a heightened risk to the surroundings (§1 Art. 349 Russian Criminal Code). Chebanov will have to pay 15% of his salary to the state, Zverev 10%. Disciplinary penalties have already been imposed on the soldiers which limit their eligibility for promotion for a certain time, Kommersant reports.
According to the court verdict, on October 1, 2017, the aviation unit technicians were using an “Oka” system to inspect the condition of aerial guided missiles, including two X-29TD missiles. These missiles were on board a Su-30SM heavy multirole fighter which had recently made a flight. Chebanov and Zverev violated the operating procedures, neglecting to verify that the check mechanisms of one of the missiles were in working order. The moment current was applied, the ignition cartridge was triggered, and an air-to-surface missile (roughly 4 m long, weighing around 700 kg, of which the explosive accounts for 100 kg) flew out of the launcher. No one was injured as a result of the uncontrolled flight, but significant material damage was caused: the projectile destroyed the hangar’s gate and part of its wall, various equipment and another missile of the same type. The incident occurred in August 2019 at a military airfield in Saky, Crimea.
Both missiles had to be written off, each of which cost an estimated $289,000. The Oka system and other destroyed equipment was valued at around $150,000. The soldiers were sued for a total of $728,000.
The military court later reduced the damage to $635,000 after dismissing some of the plaintiff’s claims.
The defendants argued that, taking into account the date when the missiles were commissioned, they should be worth much less than $289,000 each. The court dismissed the argument, citing the experts’ conclusion that the price of a missile remains unchanged until it is written off. During the preliminary investigation, the defendants paid a small amount of compensation, leaving the damage caused by each of them at $317,500. The court found extenuating circumstances, including damage through negligence, and reduced the claims to $234,000 against Zverev and $250,000 against Chebanov. They must also pay the Simferopol budget approximately $1,000 in state fees.