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Ella Polyakova
ST. PETERSBURG -- Another young soldier has deserted an infamous Russian military unit near St. Petersburg after allegedly being abused, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Private Artyom Brish, who joined the army last summer, said he fled the unit located in the town of Kamenka after he was beaten by several older soldiers and officers.

Ella Polyakova, chairwoman of the Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg nongovernmental organization, told RFE/RL that Brish should have legally not been drafted into the army as his parents are deaf mutes and need personal care. She said there are documents proving that Brish himself is seriously ill and incapable of performing his military duties.

Brish has asked the Soldiers' Mothers group for help in his case.

Polyakova said military draft boards in Russia try to enroll all young men -- despite their health problems -- in order to meet army enlistment quotas. In Russia, every male between 18-27 is required to serve one year in the army.

The Kamenka military unit gained notoriety in the last two years after numerous cases emerged of soldiers being beaten, hazed, and tortured.

In October, President Dmitry Medvedev fired the commander at Kamenka and two other military officials after numerous reports of abuse of recruits.

Eight senior officers had been sacked from their posts at the end of 2009, after at least two soldiers committed suicide and numerous others deserted the base, claiming they were hazed and even tortured while serving at Kamenka.

Read more in Russian here
ALMATY -- Kazakh police briefly detained two Al-Jazeera journalists and confiscated their videotapes, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Simon Ostrovsky told RFE/RL he and his cameraman were interviewing the wives of jailed Uzbek refugees in front of the pretrial detention center in Almaty on February 3 when police forced him, his cameraman, and two Uzbek women into the detention center.

Ostrovsky says he was asked to give a written explanation of his activities in Kazakhstan before he and his cameraman were released. The two Uzbek women were also released.

But the officers refused to return Ostrovsky's tape with footage of the Uzbek women's attempts to pass food and clothes to their jailed husbands.

Ostrovsky, who came to London with his cameraman earlier this week, told RFE/RL he was summoned by police to the pretrial detention center on February 4 for "a conversation."

A detention center officer, who identified himself as senior lieutenant Alikhan Aqqazinov, told RFE/RL he had no time to talk about the incident.

Read more in Kazakh here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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