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Group Of Kyrgyz Army 'Deserters' Turn Themselves In To Military

Hazing is a major problem in the Kyrgyz military.
Hazing is a major problem in the Kyrgyz military.
BISHKEK -- Fifteen missing Kyrgyz soldiers have turned themselves in to the Military Prosecutor's Office in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The soldiers say they have been physically assaulted by officers in the unit.

Hazing has long been a serious problem in the Kyrgyz Army and has led to several conscripts being killed.

RFE/RL's correspondent reports from Bishkek that the soldiers are currently being questioned. Human rights activists are present at those sessions.

Kyrgyz Defense Ministry officials said the soldiers left military unit no. 41069 in a Bishkek garrison in the early morning on December 8.

The ministry's Discipline Control Department's chief, Ernis Elamanov, told RFE/RL that "the soldiers left the unit after the unit's leadership learned that they had beaten newly drafted conscripts." He said they deserted without taking any weapons with them.

Meanwhile, the mother of one of the soldiers, Anara Abdrakhmanova, told RFE/RL today that her son called her on December 8 and told her that "he is no longer able to stand the intimidation by his commanders and he is even ready to die" rather than continue in such a situation.

Earlier on December 9, the soldiers' parents gathered in front the Military Prosecutor's Office to demand a thorough and fair investigation into the case. Representatives of the office promised the parents to investigate fairly and to take all opinions and statements into account.

There were cases of hazing-related desertion in the Kyrgyz Army in the past, but it's unprecedented in Kyrgyzstan's modern history for 15 soldiers to go AWOL from the same military unit in one day.

Read more in Kyrgyz here