More than two thousand Russian soldiers were killed in 2002 as a result of bullying. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, this was announced by Alexander Barannikov, a member of the Union of Right Forces, at a press conference today entitled Will the Spring 2003 call-up be the last? He said that senior officers often beat up soldiers, humiliate them and then they die from severe injuries or commit suicide.'
Mr Barannikov believes that military reform to create a professional and contractual army could make a real difference to this situation. He said the contract 'must include soldiers' and officers' obligations to one another.' He is certain that 'if one of them breaks the contract, the other will be able to take him to court and this will keep the situation under control.'
'Military reform is essential for both the government and society as a whole,' he said. Moreover, he added that 'it works against officers' interests as at the moment it is easier for officers to gain promotion and then use soldiers as unpaid labour.' Mr Barannikov pointed out that the Union of Right Forces is proposing shorter military service of only 6 months. 'With proper training it is quite possible to become a professional soldier within six months,' said the MP.