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Non-Combat Deaths Plague Russian Army

Published: February 26, 2010 (Issue # 1551)


Fifty-eight young men died as a result of non-combat-related causes in the military detachments of the northwestern district in 2009, Igor Lebed, chief military prosecutor of the Leningrad Military District, said Thursday.

Nationwide, the figure totaled 273 deaths, according to the countrys Defense Ministry. Suicides account for more than half of non-combat deaths in the armed forces. According to statistics released on Thursday, 137 people committed suicide in the Russian army in 2009. A further 88 people died as the result of accidents, 20 died in traffic incidents, 17 were murdered, seven died in incidents involving the misuse of weapons, and four died as the result of hazing.

The Defense Ministry estimated that on average, up to 500 recruits die from non-combat-related causes every year in Russia.

But human rights groups contest official statistics and claim the actual number is at least twice as high. Worse still, human rights groups insist hazing cases are often reported as accidental deaths.

The St. Petersburg Soldiers Mothers human rights organization said recruits are driven to suicide by hazing, violence and physical abuse. Some of the letters kept at the organizations headquarters were written by recruits who later committed suicide.

These letters are sometimes brought to the pressure group by desperate parents wishing to sue the military authorities.

Every month, deserters and their relatives flock to us with absolutely chilling stories of torture, forced prostitution and slave labor, said Ella Polyakova, head of Soldiers Mothers.

Investigations into suicides and alleged abuses typically lead nowhere.

Obtaining evidence from a closed structure like the Russian army, which has its own military prosecution system, has proven difficult.

It is a shame that the Russian armed forces are more concerned about their image which they want to preserve at all costs than about establishing the truth and protecting the victims of abuse, said Polyakova.

Unfortunately, in Russia, victims testimonies are not treated seriously enough, she said. Even if we submit a whole pile of testimonies, the prosecutors can easily refuse to open a criminal case, claiming that there is not enough evidence.

Basically, what happens is that the prosecutors weigh the testimonies of the deserters against the word of the officers; needless to say the victims do not stand a chance, Polyakova added.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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