Tragedy in Yelan- A soldier's death is always tragic, but a death during training doubly-so. Late in the evening of 16 November, a T-72 crew died after a shell exploded in the tank's barrel, a Volga-Ural military district training center source told the Russian Military News Agency. Apprentice tank crews were conducting live fire exercises as part of their graduation exams, in poor visibility, part of the large-scale exercises under way since 12 November at the military training center near Yelan. Having just fired a single round, for reasons unknown, the firing mechanism of a second shell detonated. The names of the professional serviceman and two active-duty servicemen (from Kurgan, Kemerovo and Sverdlovsk regions, respectively) have not been released.
The district prosecutor's office launched a criminal case on charges of arms handling rules violation in accordance with the Russian Criminal Code. A Volga-Urals Military District commission, headed by the District's Chief-of-Staff LTG Nikolay Tkachev, had also gone to the scene of the accident.
Commander of the Volga-Urals Military District (and Hero of Russia) Colonel-General Alexander Baranov interrupted his inspection in Samara and returned to Yekaterinburg to participate in the investigation. The Federal Security Service (FSB) experts were brought in on the case and the professional assistance of other specialists might be tapped as well.
A similar incident at the Yelan training ground happened one day prior, but no one was hurt when the shell detonated in that barrel.
Vladimir Melnikov, the military prosecutor of the Volga-Urals Military District, refused to speculate on the causes before the investigation was complete. The special commission will announce the cause of the tragedy, probably on 19 November. - Adam Geibel