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Russia: Defense Ministry Reports “Non-Combat Losses” Online

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Nov. 20 that suicides, accidents, murders, and, possibly, manslaughter claimed 297 lives in the country's armed forces from January to October 2009, and that 149 of these deaths were suicides.

October alone produced a death toll of 24, including 12 suicides, according to the report (RUS), which was one of the monthly statistical bulletins on the so-called “non-combat losses” that the ministry publishes in the form of tables on its website, www.mil.ru.

The reports do not specify the proportions of draftees, soldiers doing contractual service and officers that make up the death tolls, and they only cover the Defense Ministry-run part of the military; no such statistics are available on armed services coming under the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service (FSB), or the Emergency Situations Ministry.

The Defense Ministry-controlled forces, where the term of draft service is one year, number about 1.2 million, including more than 300,000 officers.

The ministry's “non-combat losses” statistics have varied little from month to month, with this year's minimum and maximum monthly tolls being 23 and 37 respectively.

Accidents claimed more than 127 lives in the 10-month period, but the exact numbers of lives lost through accidents, murder, and, possibly, manslaughter are unclear because of the bulletins’ rather confusing organization.

The reports have a category entitled “Accidents” (96 fatalities stated in the November report), but also separate categories on the mishandling of weapons (seven deaths) and road accidents (24), and a category entitled “Murders and Deaths through Negligence” (17). There is also a category (four deaths in the November bulletin) on “exceeding of powers” and the notorious bullying and brutal hazing by soldiers of fellow servicemen known as dedovshchina.

According to footnotes to the table, the total “non-combat” death toll is definitive, but criminal investigations into soldiers’ deaths sometimes take a long time, and so some of the reported cases may be moved from one category to another later.

One of the notes says the statistics do not cover fatal diseases.

The November report, which also says 11,653 crimes were committed in the armed forces from January to October, has hardly drawn any comments on RuNet so far, but quite a lot of comments followed the October bulletin (RUS), which said the period from January to September had produced a death toll of 273.

There was hardly any reaction to the October report from bloggers, but there were quite a few comments on various news websites: some purely emotional, others trying to get to the causes of “non-combat” fatalities, one comment providing a link to a law firm that offers to exempt young men from the draft, and one person arguing that the death toll of 273 was too low to worry about.

There was, for example, a discussion on the Novosibirsk-based Lyubimy Gorod site, and below is a small selection of opinions posted there:

Silxer:

But everyone chooses their own way. If all you do is drink and smoke, that's where you will be [i.e., drafted into the army]. These days tricking yourself out [of the draft is no problem]…

***

Tatyana and KOtyata:

Study and study [a reference to Vladimir Lenin's advice to young people], or phone here [a link to the website of a law firm in Novosibirsk that promises allegedly guaranteed exemption from the draft]

***

Zyklon_B:

Moreover, according to the Defense Ministry, 10,396 crimes were committed in the military since the start of the year, 1,023 of them in September. If one serves in the Russian military, there is a high probability that one will become a criminal.

There was also a debate (RUS) on the site of the Novy Region 2 online news agency:

Kapitan:

An I-couldn't-give-a-shit attitude on the part of officers, lack of REAL sergeants, moronic combat training programs – all these are results of these “non-combat” losses in the Armed Forces [he apparently means 'causes’ rather than ‘results’]. Russia is no exception either. The situation is just as crazy in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. And the ultimate reason is there are more old-fart generals, colonels and rubbishy staff and logistics officers than soldiers in our armies. There're 10 officers for each rank-and-file soldier!!! There's one more little group of good-for-nothings with stars on their shoulders – the warrant officers. I'm not talking about those who command companies or are special forces fighters – I'm talking about the LOGISTIC services, where, at times, to get something out of a warrant officer in a combat or financial unit you have to either give him a bottle of brandy or simply blow his teeth out – an IMPENETRABLE BUNCH OF BASTARDS.

***

Dersu Uzala:

This is a very low ratio between non-combat losses and the total number of military personnel for any army in the world.

Why should NR [New Region] be running into hysterics?

***

SPETS:

In fact, in a large city with a population of a minimum of one million more people get killed by drugs […] than in the entire armed forces with all their losses. But they don't yell about that, do they!

***

Nerussky:

The main causes of non-combat losses are old armaments plus the fact that military personnel have very little experience of using them, the exceptionally low education standards of draftees and their exceptionally poor health, the shortage of officers and their being too busy with goodness knows what but not work with soldiers, exceptionally poor performance on the part of officers in working with soldiers – most of them simply lack the knowledge that's needed for this.

A lonely comment, posted by “a student” on the Velikaya Epokha (The Epoch Times) site, said (RUS):

Yet they keep taking young guys into the military, our state broke the lives of 273 people.

Reuters reported on Nov. 17, citing Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, that about 140 soldiers in the Army had committed suicide in 2009.

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