Bullying blamed for high level of suicides in Russian army

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The Independent Online

More than 300 Russian servicemen committed suicide last year, despite higher spending and reforms to try to improve army conditions and equipment, the country's chief military prosecutor has said.

Rights groups and some former commanders say the high rate of suicides in the Russian army is caused by a culture of violence and negligence by officers. Hazing, when conscripts are bullied by older soldiers, is rampant and tens of thousands of young men try every year to avoid the compulsory draft.

"Almost a battalion of military servicemen – 341 people – were irrevocably lost in the past year as a result of suicides," the chief military prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky told the Interfax news agency. Many young Russian men pay bribes to classify themselves as unworthy to serve in the army because of the harsh treatment meted out to new recruits. But Mr Fridinsky said half the suicides were among regular contract servicemen – who would not face the same level of hazing as drafted recruits.

The military top brass has repeatedly said generals were trying to cut out bullying.