Russia: top prosecutor speaks about bullying in army

Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said that 17 servicemen had died from bullying in the first half of the year and another 120 had been injured. Overall, more than 3,500 servicemen have been subjected to bullying, he said.

The Defense Ministry has acknowledged only seven deaths resulting from bullying in the first half of the year, according to statistics posted on its Web site.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Friday admitted that "the crime situation remains very difficult" and pledged to eradicate bullying by tightening checks and improving morale.

Poor conditions and vicious bullying of young conscripts by older soldiers has made military service extremely unpopular in Russia, the AP reports. 

The bullying problem has been exemplified by a widely publicized incident earlier this year in which a conscript was beaten so badly by fellow soldiers that he had to have his legs and genitals amputated.

All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required by law to serve in the 1.2 million-member military, but fewer than 10 percent are normally drafted. The rest avoid the conscription by signing up for college, being excused for health reasons or simply paying bribes.