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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
Suicides increase in Russian army
Russian soldiers
The Russian armed forces are chronically underfunded
The Russian military says 109 soldiers have committed suicide in the first six months of this year - a 38% rise over the same period in 2003.

Chief military prosecutor Alexander Savenkov said at least 60 of those were "driven to suicide" because of bullying by their superiors.

He also said 420 servicemen have died in non-combat situations this year.

Correspondents say morale in the Russian military is low and corruption among the senior staff is widespread.

"We can safely say that 60 people were driven to suicide," Mr Savenkov told reporters in Moscow.

He said criminal investigations were under way to punish those responsible.

HAVE YOUR SAY
There was a practice at our detachment: a soldier who had done something wrong or was just disliked would have guard dogs trained at him
Ruru, Russia

The prosecutor said that others may have committed suicide for personal reasons, such as trouble with their families or with a girlfriend.

Mr Savenkov also said embezzlement was another growing problem in the army.

According to official military figures, more than 7,000 soldiers were convicted of various crimes last year.

The Russian armed forces are now a shadow of their former might during Soviet times, correspondents say.

They say that for most of the last decade Russian troops have been bogged down in operations in the breakaway region of Chechnya and lack of funding has hampered the pace of reform.




SEE ALSO:
Death rate high in Russian Army
13 Sep 03  |  Europe
Putin backs contract army plan
19 Mar 03  |  Europe
Russian army to ban gays
13 Mar 03  |  Europe
Russian troops quit Chechnya
05 Mar 03  |  Europe


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