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Most Kyrgyz Deserters Return To Military Unit

BISHKEK -- Thirty-five Kyrgyz soldiers who deserted their unit in Bishkek on February 4 have returned to their barracks.

Four deserters remain missing.

The soldiers' relatives said the mass desertion was because of hazing by senior officers.

The unit's commander, Bolotbek Bokoshev, told RFE/RL that the soldiers deserted because of "their inability to stand the hardships of military service."

However, all of the soldiers are veteran conscripts set to be discharged by summer.

They are serving in the unit that guards Kyrgyzstan's presidential residence.

Bokoshev says those who returned within a day will be disciplined but won't face criminal charges.

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

The desertion of dozens of veteran conscripts in one day is considered unprecedented.