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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Crime Wave Rising To Senior Ranks: Prosecutor

Russia's chief military prosecutor expressed alarm Wednesday over a growing number of crimes by senior officers and said 15 admirals and generals were among those being investigated for suspected criminal action.

"The situation is almost critical," Itar-Tass quoted Colonel General Valentin Panichev as telling a meeting of military prosecutors in Moscow.

His disclosures provided further evidence of the poor state the demoralized and underfunded armed forces find themselves in, after years of major budget cuts since the end of the Cold War.

Troops who have not been paid for months are selling their weapons in increasing numbers while their superiors continually probe for new ways of stealing money from the military.

President Boris Yeltsin last month expressed concern at the state of the armed forces, and security chief Alexander Lebed has said the army could soon mutiny in protest at the worsening conditions.

"The number of officers committing crimes is continually growing and at the same time billions of rubles are being stolen," Panichev said.

Prosecutors had launched lawsuits to retrieve 60 billion rubles ($11 million) embezzled in the first half of the year and were taking measures to recover a further 70 billion rubles in missing cash and materials.

"The military prosecutor is handling criminal cases against 100 officers of the rank of colonel and above, and they include 15 generals and admirals. This is unprecedented in Russian history," Panichev said.

The Russian media has uncovered cases of soldiers building lavish country houses for their top officers and air force commanders setting up a transportation business using military aircraft under their control.

The Rossiiskiye Vesti newspaper said last week the number of criminal cases opened against the military had risen to 672 in the first six months of this year -- 39 more than in the first half of 1995.

Panichev said his men had carried out 17,000 investigations so far this year and had uncovered 350 crimes, including 25 undisputed cases of murder.

Last week two Russian army deserters confessed to killing the parents-in-law of a doctor who treated Yeltsin.

Among the unhappiest military personnel are those officers still living in tents after leaving eastern Germany in the early 1990s; arguments rage over the accommodation which should have been built for them.

On the far eastern island of Sakhalin, army troops and elite police were still searching for two soldiers after four of their colleagues in an air defence unit were shot dead.