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St. Petersburg court sentences officer to 5 years after student deaths

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ST. PETERSBURG, October 28 (RIA Novosti) - A court martial in St. Petersburg, Russia's second biggest city, sentenced Friday a naval officer to five years in prison after an officer and cadets in his charge died.

Captain of the 3rd class Maxim Gavrilov was in command of a six-oar sailing vessel that capsized in the Gulf of Finland on June 8, 2005. One officer and five cadets from the St. Petersburg Military Naval Institute died.

The court established that Gavrilov took the vessel out during training into the Finish Gulf without a license to direct it and without knowing the area into which he sailed, did not take precautionary measures and did not know how to hoist the sail.

Gavrilov, directing the vessel, which was 2 kilometers from the shore of the Finish Gulf, made several mistakes in hoisting the sail, causing the boat to capsize. Gavrilov allowed an officer and five cadets to swim to ashore. He remained on the boat with one other cadet. The officer and five cadets froze to death while attempting to swim the 2 kilometers.

The court convicted the defendant of abuse of authority and negligence.

Gavrilov will serve his sentence in a low-security prison. For the first three years after his release, he is forbidden to work as an officer.

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