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#6 - JRL 7170
Lawyer: Russian Army Plagued by Violence
May 6, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) - More than 300 officers were convicted last year for beating subordinates and more than 500 defense officials were charged with stealing from the state, Russia's chief military prosecutor said Tuesday.

Russia's army has long been plagued by brutal hazing by older soldiers, but beatings by officers were previously rare, said prosecutor Alexander Savenkov's office.

Painting a picture of corruption as well as epidemic violence in the armed forces, Savenkov said in one case, a rear admiral was convicted for accepting $2 million in bribes in exchange for lobbying the interests of a fish cannery.

Savenkov also confirmed that corruption is widespread among draft officials, saying bribes from $330 to $2,500 have been paid to avoid conscription.

Savenkov said more than 300 officers, including a general, were convicted for beating subordinates last year.

A total of 2,000 servicemen were charged in 2002 and 2003 with hazing and other abuse, Savenkov's office said in a press release.

Savenkov told a news conference prosecutors were reacting quickly to all reports of abuse. ``Society is demanding effective work from us,'' he said.

In recent months, groups of soldiers around the country have temporarily abandoned their posts to report abuse to military prosecutors or human rights groups.

Fourteen Russian servicemen left their unit in the southern region of North Ossetia on Sunday to report beatings. Savenkov said four servicemen, including three sergeants, have been jailed pending an investigation.

In corruption cases, some 8,000 defense officials were disciplined last year for financial abuses, and 500 officials, including 50 unit commanders, have been charged with stealing from the state, he said.

More than 25 officers were convicted of bribe-taking, with 11 receiving prison terms, Savenkov said.

In a high-profile case, Col. Gen. Georgy Oleinik, a former top financial official in the Defense Ministry, is on trial in connection with the alleged misappropriation of $450 million, he said.

In April, two senior officers were convicted for taking bribes during the fall draft and seven other cases are pending, he said. Another three officers were detained during the spring draft, he said.

Hazing and abuse by senior commanders, poor living conditions in the army and the war in Chechnya have made serving in Russia's army unpopular. Many draft-age men pay bribes to avoid conscription or obtain phony medical certificates showing they are unfit for service.

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