A horrible thing has happened in Russia. Next to it, Abu Ghraib is like kindergarten.
Soldier Loses Legs in Bullying Ordeal
by Nick Allen in Moscow
Russia's defence minister yesterday condemned brutal bullying that left an army conscript fighting for his life as "shameful" and ordered a general to investigate.
The life of Andrei Sychev, 18, was "hanging by a thread", doctors said, two weeks after surgeons had to remove his legs, genitals and fingers after beatings by drunken soldiers.
"This shameful fact happened on New Year's Eve," the minister, Sergei Ivanov, said. "Why did it take 25 days for Moscow to be informed?"
Mr Ivanov sent Gen Alexei Maslov to investigate the incident at the Chelyabinsk tank academy in the Urals and sacked its chief.
According to reports, Pte Sychev was forced to crouch for three hours while being kicked and raped. His sister told the media he was tied to a chair, with circulation to his limbs cut off.
The soldier complained of pain in his legs for three days but was not sent to a civilian hospital for treatment until gangrene had already developed. Details of his ordeal came to light when an anonymous caller tipped off local human rights activists.
The most active group fighting the epidemic of bullying in the Russian military, the Soldiers' Mothers' Committee, yesterday called for Mr Ivanov's resignation.
According to official statistics, believed to be much understated, 25 teenagers died in the first half of 2004 as a result of bullying and more than 100 committed suicide.
Marina Litvinovich suggested people should gather by the defense ministry in Moscow on Saturday, and they did - some 300 showed up - and they demanded Ivanov's resignation, and even the cops were sympathetic.
Some photos from the rally are here. One of the posters reads: "Putin, protect not only the diplomats' kids," referring to the time last year when kids of the Russian diplomats were beaten up in Warsaw, which was followed by some really loud rhetoric from Moscow. Another poster demands that the children of the ruling elite - including Putin's daughters - also get drafted.
A good piece by Valery Panyushkin about what happened and how it affects the army's image is here (in Russian, just as some of the previous links).