Source Pravda.Ru

Russia claims 750 servicemen suffered non-combat related deaths

The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that 750 servicemen suffered non-combat related deaths during the first nine months of the year. In a chart posted on the ministry's Web site, it said that 13 had died due to hazing, 200 committed suicide, 218 died in traffic accidents and 194 in other accidents.

Five died in combat and one in other circumstances in Chechnya, the ministry said, bringing the year's total of Defense Ministry servicemen's deaths in the war-shattered region to 80.

Many of the non-combat deaths that plague the cash-strapped military are blamed on brutal abuse by senior servicemen or negligence by officers, others on accidents caused by inexperience or poor equipment. Many of the suicides are thought to be caused by hazing and other abuse.

All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to serve two years in the armed forces, three years for the navy. However, military officials have said that only 9.5 percent of eligible men are being drafted.

Russian officials plan to switch part of the nation's military from conscripts to volunteer soldiers and reduce the conscription term by one year, a measure expected to take effect by 2008. They say, however, that this will require enlisting twice as many conscripts, around half a million per year.

There are 1.2 million people in the armed forces, 130,000 are contract soldiers and the rest are conscripts. Officials plan to ultimately have an armed forces of half conscripts, half contract soldiers.

T.E.