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NGO Says 3,000 Russian Soldiers Die In Noncombat Deaths

Valentina Melnikova (Courtesy Photo) September 20, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A rights group says that up to 3,000 Russian soldiers lose their lives in noncombat situations every year.

Valentina Melnikova, the executive secretary of the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that many soldiers die due to beatings, maltreatment, hazing, or suicide.

The Russian Defense Ministry says that more than 300 soldiers have died in the Russian Army since the beginning of 2007.

But Melnikova says Defense Ministry statistics are incomplete, as there are many cases of soldiers who die after beatings or hazing incidents that go unreported.

Melnikova also says that Defense Ministry statistics are skewed as they include only those soldiers that serve under the ministry, which she said only amounts to around one-half of all troops in Russia.

The rights activist also said the data does not take into consideration soldiers who serve under other federal structures, including Federal Security Service (FSB) troops, or personnel serving under the Interior and Emergency Situations ministries.

There are currently around 1 million soldiers serving in Russian military units, although exact data is scarce. For instance, there are no known figures about the number of troops serving in the FSB.

Melnikova says her organization's data is derived from its own monitoring and from other nongovernmental organizations.

According to the rights activist, since Soviet times, the Russian military has never disclosed accurate information about noncombat deaths.

RFE/RL Russia Report

RFE/RL Russia Report

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