The Russian army is again defending itself against allegations of brutal institutional bullying. The friends and family of conscript Roman Rudakov say he was beaten by other soldiers and refused medical care by his superiors. The case has re-awakened concerns over the military’s policy of conscription. Speaking after the first meeting of a high-profile civilian council aimed at improving the image of the armed forces. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov refuted claims that the 20-year-old had been bullied.
He went on to defend the annual recruitment of hundreds of thousands of young men. Ivanov has been tipped as a potential President when Vladimir Putin steps down in 2008 – and some say this latest campaign is an early attempt to discredit him.
Russia’s compulsory military service is massively unpopular among its people. Last year, the case of a conscript whose legs and genitals were amputated after being tortured by fellow recruits swiftly developed into a damaging story for Ivanov. According to official figures, 22 soldiers died last year as a direct result of bullying while there were 193 suicides.