Suicides in Russian Army cause alarm

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Moscow, May 30 (UNI) Russian Army is alarmed over the large number of suicide cases in comparison to other crimes, accidents and hazing.

A total of 341 Russian servicemen committed suicide in 2007, Russia's Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky said yesterday, stressing suicides remain the main cause of non-combat deaths in the Russian Army.

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

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

Hazing became a high-profile issue in the Army following an incident involving Private Andrei Sychyov, who had his genitals and both legs amputated after being beaten and tortured on New Year's Eve, 2005, by fellow soldiers in the south Urals city of Chelyabinsk.

The Russian Soldiers' Mothers Committee has estimated that around 1,000 soldiers died every year as a result of non-combat situations, RIA Novosti reported.

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

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

UNI XC SKB US1535

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