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2 Jul, 2009 15:23

Another Russian soldier flees to Georgia

Russia’s Investigative Committee of the General Prosecutor’s office has opened a defection criminal case against a soldier who left his military unit and requested political asylum in Georgia.

According to a spokesperson for the committee, Vladimir Markin, the soldier, Dmitry Artemyev, who left a military base in the village of Perevi in South Ossetia on July 1, had a Kalashnikov rifle and ammunition with him.

Markin said that apart from defection charges, the soldier will be charged for weapon theft.

Earlier, Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed Dmitry Artemiev’s defection to Georgia, as well as the fact that the soldier had asked Georgian authorities for refugee status.

The Russian ministry said that they had started talks with Georgia on the return of the soldier, adding that "the motives behind and the circumstances of the incident" are being investigated.

According to Georgian media reports, Artemyev turned to UN representatives in the region, and they in turn handed him to the Georgian side.

Dmitry Artemyev was quoted by Georgian media as saying that he was maltreated at his military unit.

"I have been treated extremely badly. I have fled the Perevi base," he said in a televised interview.

“I knew that another soldier who escaped from the Russian army is in Georgia now, and therefore I decided to follow his example. I want to live in Georgia,” he said.

The Georgian Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation has already granted Artemyev asylum seeker status, the Georgian media says.

In January 2009, another Russian soldier, Aleksandr Glukhov, fled to Georgia and asked for political asylum, which he was granted at the end of June.

In Russia, a criminal case was launched against Glukhov on charges of desertion.

In another twist, though, a Georgian navy lieutenant defected to Russia seeking political asylum.

On May 23, Alik Bzhania left the Georgian forces and went into Abkhazian territory, where he surrendered to Russian border guards.

In an exclusive interview with RT, Bzhania said the main reasons behind his actions were that he disagreed with President Saakashvili’s policies and did not want to fight a war with Russia.