A soldier from the Saratov region, who spent 11 years as a slave in Dagestan working at a brick factory, is facing a prison term for being a deserter.
When Andrey Popov enrolled in the military, the division he served in sent soldiers on so-called “work trips” where they helped out in various construction work. In 2008, such “work” was made illegal.
During one such trip, Popov was given a substance that put him to sleep. The young man woke up in a factory in Russia’s southern republic of Dagestan, where he was held as a slave to a local criminal lord who owned the factory. This was where Popov, along with several hundred other people, spent the next eleven years of his life in horrifying conditions – unsuitable even for a dog.
The young soldier tried to escape several times but in vain as the site was heavily guarded. Each time he was terribly beaten. Other slave workers who tried to escape, Popov said, were brought back by the local police. Strange as it may seem, the factory is located in Dagestan’s center – everyone knew of it and the practices carried out there.
Popov’s sister told journalists that her brother is now in very bad health. He is undernourished, his body is bruised, his arms are broken, and he has several teeth missing.
“We worked at a brick factory,” Popov told a media conference after he managed to escape. “There were regular workers who did all this hard work. There were many of them. And there were also people who were observing us each day.”
Even when Popov managed to run away, it was far from the end of his troubles. As it turned out, technically he had three more months to serve in the Russian army, so the military put him on the wanted list as a deserter.
When Popov returned home and went to the police, he was arrested and sent to a military division. He could now face prison for his “crime”. It was not until human rights groups and the media got involved that an investigation was launched into the case.
It also turned out that several months after he disappeared, the military found the body of a man resembling Popov, so his parents were told that their son was actually dead.
“Now our authorities have two options,” Lidia Sviridova from the Union of Soldiers’ Mothers, told RT. “They can either admit there has been a case of slavery in Russia and punish the culprits severely. Or they can punish the soldier, put him in prison and shut his mouth. And so slavery would flourish in our country.”