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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Russian army 'is tackling abuse'
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Moscow

Russian soldiers in Beslan in September
Russian authorities say abuse has been reduced to a minimum
The office of Russia's chief military prosecutor says a report into alleged abuse of Russian army conscripts does not correspond to reality.

The prosecutor's office suggested the report was not objective and failed to consider major steps taken to tackle the problem.

Prosecutors and Russia's military command have attempted to stamp out abuse, the prosecutor's office said.

Human Rights Watch stands by its findings, released on Wednesday.

The military prosecutor's office does not deny there is a problem with bullying and abuse in the Russian army, but it insists the military is tackling the issue, protecting soldiers' rights.

A spokesman for the chief prosecutor's office pointed to a system of hotlines and consultation points as proof.

He said the Human Rights Report was biased and based on outdated misconceptions.

Cases of abuse have now been reduced to a minimum, he claimed, and offenders are routinely prosecuted.

'Cycle of violence'

But Human Rights Watch itself says that is barely scraping the surface.

The report's authors say that most victims of bullying do not dare report their suffering.

They say abuse is a systematic problem, one that demands a far deeper response.

The report itself is the result of three years' research and describes a shocking cycle of violence inflicted by conscript soldiers on one another, a practice widely ignored or encouraged by junior officers.

The report's authors stress the problem is not only a moral one. They say it is a threat to Russia's national security.

They have called on the authorities to stop ignoring the issue and to commit to fighting it at its roots.




SEE ALSO:
Russian army bullying 'horrific'
20 Oct 04  |  Europe
Death rate high in Russian army
13 Sep 03  |  Europe


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