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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

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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