Alvaro Hil-Robles, commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe, asked Russia to solve the problem of hazing of young recruits in the Russian Army on May 27. He made this statement when commenting on the Russian military prosecutor’s office’s report announced by military prosecutor Alexander Savenkov. The military prosecutor’s office has informed society about the crime rate in the Army for the first time over the past three to four years.

The number of crimes and violations in the Russian Army and other security structures has increased in 2005. The military prosecutor criticized the state of military discipline among servicemen, including officers.

He said, “Unfortunately, soldiers cannot complain about their problems to anyone.” In this regard he focused on an unprecedented incident in the Saratov region on April 20. The matter concerns four servicemen of an air unit who committed suicide.

The military prosecutor noted, “It turned out that they were suspected of committing a crime as a result of which a person perished. However, the commander did not know anything about it, and did nothing.” The prosecutor noted, “Before the share of hazing of young recruits amounted to 11% of the total number of crimes in the Army; at present it’s close to 30%.” The military prosecutor’s office is concerned about the fact that the share of barrack hazing increases against the background of cuts to the strength of the Armed Forces.

The military prosecutor said, “The point is that there are no precise rules and regulations, which meet the requirements of the time.” It should be noted that Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced an absolutely different report at the end of 2004. The minister noted that the number of crimes linked with hazing of recruits decreased in 2004. According to him, only 900 servicemen were convicted for such crimes in 2004, in comparison with 1,256 people in 2003. Ivanov stated with pride that 80% of military units do not know such problems at all. It’s hard to say where the defense minister found this report. In the meantime, Savenkov states that military prosecutors cancelled over 11,000 orders, which violated servicemen’s rights.

He noted, “We defended the rights of over 240,000 servicemen.” In other words, the rights of every fifth serviceman of the Army were violated. This contravenes the report announced by Minister Ivanov.

The military prosecutor’s office warns that the number of crimes committed by officers is going up. Savenkov noted that 213 officers were convicted for evading military service. In all, courts passed verdicts of guilty on 1,400 officers of the Russian security ministries in 2004. Over 29,000 servicemen, including 42 generals, complained about their chiefs to the military prosecutor’s office. At the same time, crimes against property dominate in the Army.

Savenkov said, “Courts have convicted 47 commanders of military units for different crimes of this category.”

Fuel stolen from the Russian Army would be enough for organizing full-scale combat training in an air regiment. Savenkov noted, “This regiment would be able to cope with combat training tasks at high standards.” He also stated that seven chiefs of financial services of military units were punished for machinations with combat pay to participants in the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya. The military prosecutor stated that every officer stole from 100,000 to 800,000 roubles.

Savenkov said that thefts became possible because of the absence of control. This is true but there are some other reasons, which make officers commit such crimes. It’s no secret that officers’ well-being leaves much to be desired. Control is good. At the same time, moral values are losing their significance in Russian society. The cancellation of servicemen’s benefits against the background of a substantial rise of wages paid to government officials and generals of the Defense Ministry does not contribute to the Army morale. The new mortgage system has divided servicemen into “black” (who have served for 15-20 years) and “white” (young officers). Of course, young officers cannot buy housing in Moscow using the mortgage system (37,000 roubles, which the Defense Ministry will transfer to officers’ accounts every year as the cost of one square meter of housing in the Russian capital). However, young officers participating in this program will get a substantial sum in 20 years. What should Russia do to servicemen, who are not involved in this system? This is why many experienced officers and military pensioners whose pensions have increased by only 240 rubles are in despair. In all 18-20 million people are dissatisfied with the government’s policy. In other words, the crime rate in the Army is an indicator, which shows that there is something wrong in Russian society. The leadership must think about moral incentives and create a fair system of distribution of benefits and remuneration instead of punishing servicemen.