Russian society is alarmed over cases of desertion, which have become more frequent of late. Incidents connecting desertion of soldiers with weapons in their hands, with murders and stealing are publicized. Officially, nowadays neither the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office, nor the Defense Ministry publish the general figures having to do with desertion. However, some open data published by the media provide an insight on the scale of this phenomenon. Here are these data: this year alone 19 people fell victim of deserters, over 40 times the servicemen were noticed leaving their military units with weapons in their hands.
These are facts linked with crimes. However, desertion is more widespread. At the moment, about 78 servicemen who have deserted from their military units stationed in North Ossetia are wanted. In Tatarstan, 56 servicemen are wanted. Valentina Melnikova, Executive Secretary of the human rights organization, the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, said that over the past 12 months, 900 servicemen who had deserted from their military units applied to the Moscow branch office of her organization. Up to 40,000 servicemen desert from their military units annually, she said.
Official authorities neither confirm, nor deny such figures but, as the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office reported, between 1992 and 1990 at least 18,000 deserters have been wanted. As a result of launching the “giving up” action, over 50% of them applied to the Prosecutor’s Office and were amnestied. However, in the opinion of many commanders and politicians, who know what the real situation in the army and in the navy is, the situation isn’t improving thus far. The soldiers keep deserting from the troops, committing crimes, and the number of similar crimes keeps increasing.
Why do the servicemen desert from their military units? Most often, hazing, difficult family conditions, problems with health induce the soldiers to desert, statistics of the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers prove. From 900 deserters who applied to the committee under chairmanship of Valentina Melnikova, 150 people complained about beatings, 12 about being tortured and 20 about being blackmailed.
Sociology experts of the Military University – Colonel Vladimir Popov and junior scientific assistant Lieutenant Colonel Sergey Yevenko assert that servicemen who have served less than six months make up the major share of deserters in the army and the navy (42%), whereas 35% served from six to twelve months. The “granddads” make the remaining 23%. The youths are deserting from the army mainly due to hardships connected with the service, problems with health, the hazing. The most aggressive and criminal phenomena, linked with murders and embezzlement of weapons, are weighing on the consciences of “granddad” deserters. At the same time, the fact that the soldiers commit almost all similar crimes in a state of intoxication is very relevant. This proves firstly the low level of the regulations in a squad where an incident happens, and secondly the morale-psychological climate reigning in military collectives.
Military leaders often link the problems of desertion with low level of educational work, insufficiency of junior officers in the link platoon-company, inability of commanders to arrange order in squads. “Sometimes the soldiers escape because of unpleasant situations, bad conditions of life, etc. Undoubtedly, the army is not a kindergarten, but an officer must show concern for the soldiers, even though quite often this is not done,” Vadim Tarasov, an officer of the Defense Ministry’s press service said.
He also stressed that Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had said the same thing in his report dedicated to summing up results of the winter training period. Former mentor-generals and current senators Vladimir Kulakov and Alexander Kalita also pointed out this very reason.
In the meantime, desertion among contract servicemen became a relatively new phenomenon, as proves the latest incident, linked with desertion of eight servicemen of the peacekeeping forces from their post in North Ossetia. Before desertion, the length of their service on contract basis had been two weeks only. Six months before the date of transfer to the reserves came, they wished to become contract soldiers. The soldiers deserted from the platoon not because of hazing, but simply to spite the platoon commander, who tried to be demanding with the soldiers, Lieutenant General Valery Yevnevich, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Force said. Yevnevich also noted that the deserters from the peacekeeping forces were repeatedly violating discipline and consumed alcoholic drinks. The following question suggests itself: why should such people be made contract servicemen?
The majority of contract servicemen are recruited from conscripted soldiers. As the official statistics of the Russian General Staff show, their social picture is as follows: every fifth soldier was brought up in a broken or single-parent family, 22% had primary or secondary education only, 5% were known to the police, 10% had previous convictions, 14% took drugs or toxic substances, 7% were drinking heavily. Any comments are superfluous here.