Russian authorities are investigating claims this week that young military conscripts have routinely been forced into prostitution, according to several reports. It is the latest in a string
of scandals that have plagued the Russian military, this one brought to light by the Soliders’ Mothers group, a human rights organization dedicated to exposing abuses in the military.
According to The Associated Press, a member of the group in St. Petersburg, Lyubov Yezheleva, learned about allegations of sexual abuse from a 20-year-old conscript:
“He said he was forced into male prostitution by fellow soldiers who beat him and demanded that he earn money for them,” Yezheleva said. She said the conscript was serving with the interior troops unit No. 3727, in the center of St. Petersburg near the renowned Hermitage art museum.
She refused to name him out of fear for his safety.
“Regrettably, it’s not the only case of soldiers being forced into male prostitution that we are aware of,” Yezheleva said. She said another soldier who served in St. Petersburg made a similar claim in 2005.
Soldiers’ Mothers head Valentina Melnikova said the claims were “not at all unusual.”
BBC News today notes that the case follows last year’s scandalous case of Andrei Sychev, an Army private whose torturous abuse highlighted a system of military bullying in Russia that had gone wildly out of control. From the BBC:
As a result he developed gangrene in his legs and genitals, which had to be amputated.
Now permanently disabled, Private Sychev has just announced that he is to write a book about his ordeal.
Such cases have highlighted the appalling conditions suffered by some Russian service personnel at a time when Russia is seeking a greater role on the world stage.
As The A.P. notes, “all Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required by law to serve in the 1.2 million-member military, but only about 9 percent typically are drafted. The rest avoid the feared conscription by signing up for college, being excused for health reasons — often falsified — or by simply paying bribes.”