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Hazing in Russian army increases by 30% this year

Defiant or weak-willed soldiers are beaten and in some cases tortured, raped and killed

September 4, 2003

MOSCOW — Sixteen soldiers have been killed by hazing in Russia's armed forces this year, with reports of such incidents increasing sharply, and five have died in other cases of assault and battery, Russia's chief military prosecutor said Wednesday.

Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov said about 2,000 hazing incidents were reported in the military in the first half of this year, an increase of 30 percent on last year.

Savenkov said 1,200 soldiers have died in non-combat situations, 16 of them from hazing and five from assault and battery, Savenkov said. "Assault and battery has increased. Officers continue to cause grievous bodily harm to their subordinates," he said.

He did not explain the criteria that separate the hazing cases from cases of assault and battery.

Hazing often starts with routine demands for young conscripts to clean toilets, wash older soldiers' socks or beg on the streets for cigarette money. The defiant or weak-willed are beaten and in some cases tortured, raped and killed.

"This is a phenomenon that we must undoubtedly fight," Savenkov said. He cited one "exotic example" in which the commander of a unit detained a lieutenant "in the cellar of a castle" for three weeks for repeated failure to report for duty.

Savenkov added that more than 300 criminal cases have been opened against suspected perpetrators, including officers who tried to hide incidents of hazing in their units.

Every Russian male aged 18-27 is supposed to serve two years in the military, but many avoid conscription through college deferments, health exemptions and bribes. Anti-draft campaigners say hazing in Russia's military is more widespread and brutal than anywhere else in the world.

Hazing, abuse and poor living conditions are often cited as the causes of widespread desertion. –Sapa-AP

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