300 Servicemen Died in Suicides

The chief military prosecutor said Thursday that more than 300 servicemen committed suicide last year, despite higher spending and reforms to to improve army conditions and equipment.

"Almost a battalion of military servicemen -- 341 people -- were irrevocably lost in the past year as a result of suicides," Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky said, Interfax reported.

Fridinsky said suicides had actually fallen from previous years but had risen as a proportion of noncombat losses.

Many young men pay bribes to be declared unfit to serve because of harsh treatment of new recruits. But Fridinsky said half of the suicides were among regular contract servicemen -- who do not face the same level of hazing.

The Defense Ministry said about 100,000 young men are exempted from conscription every year due to psychological problems, Itar-Tass reported.

Rights groups and some former commanders say the high suicide rate is caused by a culture of violence and negligence by officers and senior generals.