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Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 14:49 UK

Russia army suicides cause alarm

Russian soldiers march during a Victory Day Parade on Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 2008
Conditions are notoriously harsh for new recruits in the Russian army

Almost an entire battalion of Russian soldiers committed suicide last year, the country's chief military prosecutor has said.

A total of 341 military personnel killed themselves in 2007, a reduction of 15% on the previous year.

But Sergei Fridinsky said the numbers were worrying and called for a national strategy to prepare men for service.

Bullying, often extremely violent, is rife in the army and is the most common reason for suicide.

"Almost a battalion of military servicemen - 341 people - were irrevocably lost in the past year as a result of suicide," Mr Fridinsky said.

The BBC's Russia analyst, Steven Eke, says dedovshchina - literally, rule of the elders, a culturally specific, often very violent, form of bullying, is cited as the most frequent trigger for young soldiers taking their own lives.

Conditions of military service - compulsory for one year for Russian men - are so harsh that many parents and young men offer bribes to avoid getting conscripted.

Yet Mr Fridinsky said that about half of the suicides were among professional, contract-based soldiers, who would not face this kind of bullying.

He suggested that Russia use the experience of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan to help their troops deal with the psychological trauma of combat.




SEE ALSO
Death rate high in Russian army
13 Sep 03 |  Europe
Russian conscripts found hanged
20 Apr 05 |  Europe

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