Military Chiefs Announce City's Growing Death Toll

By Linda JONES
St. Petersburg Press

Another 15 servicemen from the St Petersburg area have been reported killed in action during the latest clashes in embattled Chechnya.

The dead men include two majors, Alexei Semerenko and Sergei Kurnosenko, as well as a captain and a 22-year-old lieutenant.

Most of the victims were between 18 and 19 years of age and had only recently joined up.

Some 21 local soldiers have now lost their lives in the Chechen conflict, although the number of wounded is still unknown. Latest official figures put total Russian casualties at 617 and Chechen dead at 4,836.

The latest casualties were announced by Major-General Vladimir Brezgun, military commissar for Leningrad oblast.

He said, "The regional authorities have allocated between 1 and 4 million roubles to the families of the deceased.

"The oblast government will pay out a further 10 million. Memorial stones for the fallen will be erected at the expense of the Ministry of Defense."

Three shell-shocked local servicemen are currently being treated in St Petersburg's Hospital No 442 and a fourth at Peterhof.

The military commissariat is offering travel warrants to the families of wounded soldiers so they can visit their sons in hospital. More and more are taking up the offer.

Some patients have been treated as far afield as Volgograd and Rostov-on-the-Don.

Maj-Gen Brezgun said, "It's difficult for us to find out exactly which hospital is caring for the wounded or sick servicemen.

"We are in touch with staff HQs around the Leningrad district, with other authorities and medical services.

"Now we have got in contact with military commissariats from other parts of Russia such as Saratov, Volgograd and Krasnodar where our boys are being treated in hospital.

"We have asked them to give us as much information as possible about troops from our district."

* The mayor's office has set up a 24-hour telephone hotline providing up-to-date information on further developments in the Chechen conflict.

The hotline -- which was organized by Deputy Mayor Valery Malyshev -- is being inundated with up to 800 calls a day.

The number is 219-22-83.