Let’s look at more unusual suicide cases (or reported attempts). Recall the story of Albert Kiyamov – beaten by a sergeant and pushed to his death from a barracks window in May 2010. There’s still no word on the investigation or charges against the sergeant. And there was a similar case reported in the same brigade after Kiyamov was killed.
While these seemed like isolated incidents, defenestrations apparently aren’t aberrations. The authorities are hard-pressed to determine whether young soldiers are jumping or being pushed to cover up other crimes and violence. Suffice it to say the line between suicide and murder in the Russian Army is blurry.
In late August, a conscript was beaten and thrown from the fourth floor of a barracks in the 35th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade. According to Newsru.com, the victim’s father, rights defenders, and other conscripts say two soldiers tried to take his personal items, uniform articles, and boots before beating and pushing him off the building. He survived the fall, but broke his arms and legs.
The military prosecutor determined there were “nonregulation relations” in the unit, and charges have been filed against the perpetrators. But the prosecutor claims the victim jumped to escape his attackers, according to IA Regnum.
In mid-July, a conscript in a Railroad Troops brigade in Stavropol apparently argued with a major before the officer hit him several times with the butt of a rifle, according to Newsru.com. The soldier then, according to the prosecutor’s account, jumped from the fifth story of his barracks sustaining numerous injuries including several broken bones. His parents said he’d told them about this particular officer. In somewhat uncharacteristic fashion, the major quickly acknowledged using force against the conscript, and was relieved of duty. But no charges of forcing someone to attempt suicide.
In late May, a conscript hung himself in a unit in Mari El. He was beaten before this because he refused to give other soldiers 1,000 rubles. The victim’s parents believe these men killed their son. The case is being investigated under Article 110 “Incitement to Suicide.”
In early February, a conscript in a unit near Orenburg was found dead in his bunk with a knife in his chest. Two junior sergeants apparently killed the young man in a fight, then tried to make it look like suicide.
In mid-January, a conscript shot himself twice on a firing range at the training center in Yelan. The confused incident has been classified variously as an accident, suicide, and murder. According to Komsomolskaya pravda, the victim told his family he’d been forced to sign a request to serve in a unit in Tajikistan.
While most Russian Army suicide victims are conscripts, there are other cases, and other circumstances. In mid-March, a warrant officer from a Moscow unit shot and killed his wife before turning the gun on himself.
Finally, a last poignant case, in early September, a young man jumped from the roof of a nine-story apartment block in Orel just days before he was due to report to his unit near Moscow. It’s unknown why he killed himself or what he felt about going to serve.
Despite reducing conscription to one year and “humanizing” military service, the Russian Army remains a violent, dangerous place. Conscription keeps it a lumpen army in which there are few limits, and the strong prey on the weak pretty much without restraint. The violence remains a significant reason why those who can still avoid serving.
The Defense Ministry no longer publishes its monthly and yearly statistics on “noncombat losses,” crime, and accidents in the Armed Forces. But it seems the suicide rate is as high as it was two, three, or four years ago – 20 some per month, and 200 or 250 suicides annually. Still basically a full “suicide battalion” every year. There’s just not enough public or political outrage to change the situation.