In October 2017 in Russia launched another military service. Despite the positive official rhetoric, in recent years, the media has frequent articles about suicide among soldiers. How time has changed the appearance of the Russian army and what is the situation with non-combat losses now?
The USSR and pre-Putin Russia
The appearance of “bullying” in the Soviet army in the 1960-ies contributed to the decision of the Politburo to call in the Armed forces of people with criminal records. Former “inmates” made the army use the jargon of thieves and prison procedures that led to the practice of violence against physically and mentally less strong soldiers. At the end of 1971, the Main military Prosecutor’s office stated that “the Armed Forces of the USSR was 1573 suicide and attempted suicide (+13.1 per cent compared to the previous year), significant growth occurred among young soldiers and sailors (+43%)”.
After the start of the Afghan war, the defense Ministry sent troops to the secret order for the suppression of hazing, i.e., the relationship between military personnel who violate the requirements of the statutes. Judging by the statistics – 4000 convicted of hazing in 1985, less violence in the armed forces did not.
In 1990-e years “bullying” has become one of the main problems for the Russian army. So, in 1996, the military itself has recognized the growth in the number of suicides and attempts on them. With more than 80% were committed by conscripts. According to the former Minister of defence Igor Rodionova, if until 1995 the army there have been rare cases of suicide and all of them were considered emergencies, in 1996 these tragedies happened for about a hundred. Parents did everything possible, including had paid bribes to employees of military enlistment offices to have their son go “to shake a two-year term” in the armed forces.
The first Chechen war (1994-1996), in which according to official figures killed nearly 4 thousand soldiers (according to unofficial — more than 10 thousand), did not enhance the prestige of military service. This period was the peak of the activities of the Committee of soldiers ‘ mothers of Russia, which has organized numerous protests against the war in Chechnya and came into confrontation with the generals. In turn, the government faced the fact that most of the media fed information without regard to the official view of the authorities. High officials even tried to prevent reporters in gathering information and threatened to suspend the work of several media.
Authorities have learned lessons from the mistakes in the organization of the state propaganda during hostilities. In 1999 the Russian public, with rare exceptions, supported the decision of Vladimir Putin to begin “the second Chechen”. The classification of information, the sharp decline of public control and public awareness main features of this campaign. This experience will be applied by the Russian authorities during the armed conflict in the 21st century – in 2008 (the war with Georgia), in 2014 (the beginning of hostilities in the East of Ukraine) and in 2015 (the start of military action in Syria).
Turning point of the 2000s
In 2000-ies the situation with the deaths of soldiers continued to deteriorate. According to the official data of the military Prosecutor and the Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation, in 2003, suicide accounted for 35% of all dead soldiers (337 people), but by 2006 this figure had increased to 40% (554 people).
Despite the fact that almost every fact of instituted criminal proceedings (article 110 of the criminal code “Incitement to suicide”), the investigation, as a rule, was to blame for the “citizen” (a favorite of the girls left, discord with parents, etc.). The army authorities are sluggish to respond to the demands of civil society to take effective action. In particular, this period was taken four normative act, regulating the psychological work in the armed forces, but had, in fact, declarative in nature. So, during consideration of one of the cases revealed that three military psychologist, including the chief point of psychological assistance, did not have special education in psychology. One of them graduated from the Institute of art and culture, the experience of working as a psychologist was six months.
Now the ECHR is the joint complaint of the relatives of five soldiers committed suicide in 2005-2006 due to the negligence of commanders and psychologists. The geography of events in Khabarovsk Krai, Chita, Orenburg, and Orel region. Lawyer Ramil ahmetgaliev representing the interests of victims, believes that in all these cases, the Russian authorities had violated the Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Namely, article 2 “Right to life” and article 13 “Right to an effective remedy”.
The fracture system in the Russian army occurred after the case of private Andrei Sychev, which in 2006 abused at the Chelyabinsk tank school. Because of delayed medical care provided 19-year-old boy amputated the legs and genitals. The story caused a wide public resonance and, by estimations of analysts, has put an end to the aspirations of the then-defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, to become President of the country.
In such circumstances the country’s leadership had to start the reform of the army, which became the most ambitious in the history of the armed forces. Her guide was Anatoly Serdyukov, who headed the Agency in 2007. The essence of “serdyukovskaya reform” was limited to the following items: 1) the reduction of service life till 1 year, so the concept of “bullying” has actually sunk into Oblivion; 2) allow soldiers to use mobile phones in their free time, and parents regularly visit children; 3) increase public control over the army — accompanied by representatives of human rights organizations of the military trains recruits to the place of service, inspection of military units at public works with regulatory agencies; 4) a sharp increase in the time allocated to sports and military training due to the fact that the entire household work (kitchen, cleaning) were outsourced.
In a few years the moral character of the army changed dramatically — from the anachronism he has become open to civil society structure. It is recognized, and human rights activists. So, the head of the Union of committees of soldiers ‘ mothers of Russia Valentina Melnikova said that the most favorable period for service in the armed forces was 2009-2013
The war in Syria and Ukraine
In 2014, in connection with a military operation in Eastern Ukraine, the authorities ‘ efforts to conceal the deaths of military personnel has increased dramatically. In August, the head of Committee of soldiers ‘ mothers “Mothers Prikamia” (Stavropol region) Lyudmila Bogatenkova, the first reported casualties of the Russian army on the territory of Ukraine, passing information about the nine fallen servicemen from Rostov part in the Council under RF President on development of civil society and human rights. Then against the human rights activist filed a case of fraud. Lawyer Andrew Sabinina managed to achieve justification Bogatenkovoy one episode, but otherwise it is pardoned.
In August of the same year the journalists of “Russian world” and TV channel “Rain” Elijah House and Vladimir Romensky attacked a cemetery near Pskov, where they arrived to find graves of soldiers killed supposedly in the Donbas. A few days in the Pskov severely beat the Deputy of Legislative Assembly of region Lev Schlossberg, who reported on the funeral of those killed in Ukraine military.
In 2015, Vladimir Putin signed a decree according to which the data on personnel losses in the armed forces in time of peace was related to information constituting a state secret. Since then, the generation and dissemination in the media of such information was prohibited under threat of criminal prosecution (article 283 of the criminal code “revealing state secrets”). In the summer of 2015 leading military reporters Russia (Arkady Babchenko, Timur Olevskiy, Grigory Pasko and others) appealed to the Supreme court of the Russian Federation with the complaint to Putin’s decree, in satisfaction of which was denied.
In December of the same year, the Council under RF President on development of civil society and human rights asked the Investigative Committee and the Main military office of public Prosecutor to check up circumstances of death of 159 soldiers in 2014-2015, which human rights activists have learnt from open sources. Only half of those documented cases, data were provided on causes of death (in 31 out of 79 cases it was a question of suicide or murder). However, law enforcement agencies, having received an appeal of the presidential Council were not to do anything.
The number of suicides in the Russian army now can only be obtained on the basis of the institutions of civil society or the media. Fond Pravo materi stated that in 2015 20% increase in the number of applicants of parents, whose sons are soldiers committed suicide (from 49% to 69%). Big news was the death of 19-year-old soldier Vadim Kostenko Hamim at the airbase in Syria in October 2015. The parents of the deceased refused to believe the official version that the son committed suicide due to quarrel with girlfriend.
In 2016, the media began to appear more frequently in the news about suicides in the military units in January in the Amur part was found hanged conscripts from Mordovia; in July in Kaliningrad the soldier jumped out of the window of the second floor of the barracks; in September, 20-year-old soldier hanged himself in Bryansk region; in December in Nizhny Novgorod part of the suicide 18-year-old boy, who had to serve for only two weeks. This is not a complete list.
The reaction of the authorities is usually to block information about the tragedy. For example, the relatives of the victims are not forced to deal with the press and not to ask for help to lawyers — they say, do not make dirty linen in public, we find ourselves guilty, we will punish and bring you the compensation. Attempts to “silence” the death of Russian soldiers in Syria are realized in a similar scenario. In fact, existing human rights organizations, which help to defend the interests of soldiers and their relatives in Russia can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Head of the human rights organization “Area law” Sergey Petryakov believes that in most cases, the cause of hazing become money extortion. Some — ordinary — extortion and collection of money, the second — officers — turn a blind eye or out of selfish motives cover intruders.
As for the family and psychological problems, in this case, the responsibility for the soldier’s condition falls on the draft Board and military psychologists, believes Petryakov. The concept of development of psychological service in the armed forces of the Russian Federation was adopted only in 2013, and its first stage, designed for 2013-2015, which involves the development of a regulatory framework. Wait for positive results long. And while no preconditions to ensure that in Russian families will arrive less zinc coffins with the code designation “Cargo 200”, alas, no.