Army life can be tough, but for Russian conscripts there is an added danger – systematic bullying and abuse from within their own ranks. During the first two months of 2011, the Russian army reported more than 500 violent crimes.
The violent humiliation becomes tragically too much for some to bear. As a result of those crimes, more than 20 soldiers were seriously injured and two others died.
According to Russia’s military prosecutor, Sergey Fridinsky, the number of violent crimes in the Russian army increased by more than 16% in 2010. And every fourth offense today is an unlawful act against a fellow officer.
It is also called hazing, and Valentina Starovoytova, the head of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, is all too familiar with its consequences.
“Reports about soldiers suffering physically and morally are coming in every day,” said Starovoytova.
She runs the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, an organization partly funded by the government. On a day-to day basis, her job is to protect soldiers from the harsh realities of service.
“There is protection rackets, when a boy has to pay another soldier, say, 2000 rubles a month to be able to serve normally, to be freed from bullying,” said Starovoytova.
Editor's content warning: This video from Russia Today contains images of graphic violence.