Russian army sold recruits for
sex, rights group claims Luke Harding, The Guardian,
February 14, 2007
Russia's scandal-prone military was gripped by
allegations yesterday that cash-strapped senior
officers had forced young conscripts to work as male
According to the rights group Union of the
Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia,
conscripts at an army base in St Petersburg were
compelled to perform sexual services for influential
middle-aged clients, among whom was a former general
in the FSB intelligence agency.
Clients were said to arrive at night outside the
military base, next to the Hermitage museum, and the
soldiers would be forced to get into clients' cars.
One conscript, who had raised the alarm, told
Russia's Gazeta newspaper yesterday that older
soldiers humiliated the others. "Sometimes they made
us mop the floors all night ... The officers would
beat us on the arms and legs. We were sent out to
the park to earn money ... I was tortured with
electric shocks." Another conscript added: "At least
10 out of 35 of us would not spend the nights at the
The allegations involving St Petersburg's unit of
3,727 personnel follow cases of abuse of conscripts.
Last year there was national outrage at the gruesome
fate of Andrei Sychev, 19, a tank academy conscript
so badly tortured by his superiors his genitals and
legs had to be amputated.
Russian media reports claim soldiers at the St
Petersburg unit passed a "client list" on to
successors, and conscripts were paid about 1,000
roubles (£20) for sex.
Yesterday, Vasily Panchenkov, a spokesman for the
interior ministry, said: "This is merely an
anti-army campaign designed by the [Soldiers'
Mothers] committees. The unit is constantly
Human rights groups are concerned about what they
call systemic bullying in the army, still made up
overwhelmingly of conscripts. Valentina Melnikova,
of the soldiers' mothers committees, said: "The
reason these cases are so hard to prove is that
everybody stays silent in the army."