OK, so I've been picking on big bad Vlad Putin for the past few days, so I won't mention the deplorable state of his army. Or maybe I will.
Reuters reports: Andrei Sychev, 19, [A recent army conscript] was tied up and beaten for hours by drunken soldiers over the New Year holiday at a tank academy in Chelyabinsk, in the Ural mountains.
Today, protesters in Moscow demanded that Vlad's old buddy in the KGB, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, should be fired. Good luck with that. [Remember what happened to the angry mother of a sailor who died on the Kursk.
Amnesty International reports:
"Amnesty International continues to receive reports of torture and ill-treatment of soldiers by their superiors, in some cases resulting in death, including forced suicides. Information received by the organization suggests failure on the part of the authorities to conduct prompt and impartial investigations of such cases and prosecute the perpetrators. Amnesty International has not been informed of any measures taken by the authorities to compensate the victims of torture and abuse in the army and to eradicate the practice of brutality in the military forces."
And article in the Moscow Times from 2003 reports that since the Russian Army has no equivalent to our NCOs, so-called "Grandfathers" are put in charge of the soldiers:
"Today, unit commanders concern themselves with battle strategy and, wanting not to be bothered with supervising troops' daily life and discipline, delegate to grandfathers the dirty work of keeping order among their peers in the barracks, while they, the professional officers, return home to their families at night.
From the 1960s, grandfathers began to take on the roles of the nonexistent professional NCOs -- safeguarding discipline, order and unit traditions. Commanding officers tended to turn a blind eye to the grandfathers' methods of disciplining younger soldiers -- as long as there was some sort of order in the barracks. As the conscript saying goes: The first year, the grandfathers beat you; the second year, you, in turn, beat up the newly enlisted."
That's a nice system! How on earth does the Russian army function? Well, as long as the oil money keeps flowing, that's all Vlad cares about.
As bad as this all sounds, it could be much, much worse. The Soldier's Mothers of St. Petersberg (Vlad's hometown)---one of many groups of mothers who try to keep their sons out of the army---wrote back in 1995 that:
"According to an official survey conducted by a commitee commissioned by the President: there are 6000-8000 deaths caused by physical or psychological violence, 500 suicides and numerous vicfims who died either by accident or because of identifiable causes each year (the estimates of the Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg are five to ten times higher)."
Predictably, an article on the Soldier's Mothers says: "Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has criticized the ``so-called'' Committee of Soldiers' Mothers for standing in the way of military justice - saying soldiers should take complaints to their superiors, not go on ``marathon'' treks in search of support."
Hmmm..I wonder of any of these mother's groups, which are NGOs, might be the reason Vlad is trying to outlaw them? (They're probably getting money from the UK and communicating with rocks, too.)
The Moscow Times reported back in July, when Vlad was hatching his new laws against foreign NGOs that he said, "We are against overseas funding for the political activities [of NGOs] in Russia. I categorically object. Not a single state that respects itself does that, and we won't allow it either."