New reports have surfaced about the brutal conditions endured by young soldiers in the Russian army. 16 recruits needed hospital treatment after what officers said was a road crash. But two of them have deserted their base near St Petersburg because they can no longer bear the violence inflicted by their drunken sergeants.“They woke us at four in the morning and started to beat us,” said deserter Vladimir Romanov. “First me, then all the others. It went on til nine o’clock. Then they told me to bring them 3,000 roubles or they’d kill me.” An inquiry’s been launched and the prosecutor’s office is yet to decide whether to start criminal action. Investigators say the sergeants could be dismissed from the army if found guilty. Casual violence is rife in the Russian military. The paper Pravda estimates that 16 per cent of new recruits – 3,000 young men – die or commit suicide in their first year. In 2006, one soldier was so badly injured his legs and genitals were amputated.