The measures being taken in the last few years by the bodies of military command, commanders of all levels, and personnel management officers have consolidated the trend for a steady decrease in the number of crimes and accidents in military units.

This organization’s work to examine the situation with regard to the observance of statutory rules of conduct among servicemen in the Russian armed forces, undoubtedly, deserves attention.

Nowadays the increased interest of our public, as well as of the foreign public, to the processes taking place in the army and the navy – is widely acknowledged. This is an integral condition for a country that is developing according to democratic principles.

It is encouraging that the researchers of Human Rights Watch have tried to present the most objective picture of the law and order prevailing not only in the Russian armed forces, but of other countries as well.

Examples given in the report clearly show that despicable acts of abuse in the barracks by servicemen do take place in the armies in Canada, the US, and other countries. Both abroad and in the Russian armed forces these negative occurrences are being addressed. Not surprisingly the researchers of Human Rights Watch themselves acknowledge what they have seen with their own eyes – that there are many officers in the army who are willing to restore order, to eradicate the so-called dedovshchina, and are in fact able to do this.

At the same time one cannot agree with the allegation that Russian authorities, and the Ministry of Defense have taken a passive position in terms of measures that can be taken to thwart violations, and have generally been silent about the problem.

The measures being taken in the last few years by the bodies of military command, commanders of all levels, and personnel management officers have consolidated the trend for a steady decrease in the number of crimes and accidents in military units. This also fully applies to the problem of violations of statutory rules of service between servicemen.

Statistics prove this.

For a number of years the crime rate in the armed forces has been 2-2.5 times lower than overall national level. During 2002, 2003 and 2004 90% of units experienced no dedovshchina, and 80% had no violations whatsoever. The fact that hooliganism in the barracks does not take place on a massive scale is also proven by the findings of Human Rights Watch’s rights-defenders, who found only 100 victims of dedovshchina in the 3 years of research, and whose statements they rely on for their report.

However, the Defense Ministry is fully aware that there is no reason for complacency. Addressing the problem of non-statutory conduct requires complex measures, involving both preventative and disciplinary measures. Primarily the Ministry of Defense is aiming its efforts at improving the conditions of service, and providing for the functioning of troops in strict accordance with army rules and regulations.

The level of military discipline is bound to benefit from a shift to a contract system of manning in large and small units, and from establishing an institute of non-commissioned officers – sergeants and corporals, who are to be selected out of the most trained contract servicemen. The problem of non-statutory treatment will also be resolved with the reduction of term of conscription to one year starting in 2008.

Officials concealing the reality of the situation, and not taking effective measures to ensure law and order in subordinate units, are being increasingly called to account. Every incident of abuse is being investigated, those found guilty are subjected to disciplinary punishment or prosecuted.

At the same time one has to understand that substantially decreasing the number of incidents and crimes, and completely eradicating violations in statutory rules of conduct between servicemen – is almost impossible for the Ministry of Defense alone.

The final solution of the problem directly depends on the level of prestige of the military service and the on level of moral, psychological and physical readiness of the young generation for service in the army and awareness of its public and political significance. And this is the field for the activities of such an important instrument as mass media affecting the authorities, the minds and hearts of people, as well as for different non-governmental organizations and movements and society as a whole.

On its part, the Ministry of Defense is ready for constructive cooperation with all those who seek to contribute to solving such an important problem as eradicating dedovshchina in military units.