Russian army: nearly a battalion a year commit suicide
The Russian army lost near a battalion, 341 servicemen, last year to suicide, the chief military prosecutor said Thursday, dpa reported.
"Almost a battalion of servicemen was lost last year," chief military prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky was quoted by Interfax as saying at a news conference in Moscow.
Fridinsky called for "urgent reforms," saying that though the total number of suicides had fallen 14 per cent from 2006 it had risen as a proportion of non-combat losses.
"We cannot but worry that suicides make more than half of all non-combat losses," he stressed.
Violent hazing of conscripts by older soldiers, experts say, is the main cause of high the suicide rate.
The army began addressing bullying in 2005 when the media gave wide coverage to the case of Private Andrei Sychyov, who had his genitals and legs amputated after being beaten and tortured by older soldiers on New Year's Eve.
Top military brass have repeatedly vowed to fight high suicide numbers that have caused embarrassment to the army, which flush with state money is working on reforms after being stripped of resources at the end Soviet Union.
The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, which campaigns for the rights of Russian servicemen and their families, however, said hazing was difficult to abolish because it is tolerated by army superiors as part of the same experience they lived through as recruits.
"Since Stalin's times nothing has changed: a single soldier does not count for anything," committee head Valentina Melnikova told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.