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Russia: Countering Hazing in the Military

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently pressed high-lever army officials to stamp out abusive behavior in the military, including rampant corruption and hazing. This month, the Russian Duma is set to consider a bill that would give military courts greater authority to address breaches of discipline in the army. Four years ago, Human Rights Watch joined the decades-long campaign led by the Soldiers’ Mothers Committees of Russia against abuses perpetrated by the Russian army. Through reports, op-eds, and meetings with high-level officials, we condemned violent hazing in the Russian military, which results in the deaths and severe injury of hundreds of young soldiers every year, all in the face of deliberate inaction and even tacit approval by commanding officers.

Earlier this year, we published an op-ed on the case of private Andrei Sychev, who was beaten so badly that his legs had to be amputated. This case drew national attention and made it impossible for the army to continue to turn a blind eye to the issue of hazing in the military. On September 27, a military court sentenced the soldiers responsible for Sychev’s injuries to prison terms, striking a blow against the entrenched culture of impunity for such abuses. Going forward, we will continue to work toward justice for victims of hazing by spearheading an effort to help soldiers’ mothers seek justice for abuse against conscripts in the European Court of Human Rights.

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