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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stories of Starving Soldiers Plague Military

Often hungry, filthy and battle-weary, soldiers fighting in rebel Chechnya hardly make a good advertisement for serving in the Russian Army.

Stories of food shortages, delayed wages and lack of fuel in the armed forces appear regularly, especially since President Boris Yeltsin sent forces to Chechnya in December 1994.

Faces of young soldiers in the mud of Chechnya are shown on news programs on most evenings, giving Yeltsin's political foes an advantage just because they did not send them. Young soldiers are even seen begging in the stations and on the street corners of Moscow.

With this in mind, Komsomolskaya Pravda issued a front page warning this month to candidates in the June 16 presidential election, including Yeltsin.

"Who will they [the military] vote for in June? They [the politicians] are totting up the percentages -- these could turn their guns on those ones, and those, against these," it said.

There are 1.8 million servicemen in the army -- and many more if Interior Ministry troops, special forces, families and veterans' organizations are included.

A front-page article in Izvestia headlined: "A soldier starved to death," told how one young conscript died after serving three monthw in a tank regiment near the far eastern town of Khabarovsk.

The head of the Defense Ministry's provisions service subsequently rejected the reports, accusing the media of lying.

"What is written in the press about people dying of hunger and so on, I again repeat, does not correspond to reality," Lieutenant General Vyacheslav Savinov said.

Last month Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov wrote to Defense Minister Pavel Grachev saying troops' living conditions in Chechnya were inadequate and soldiers were often not fed properly.

Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov told Russian television this month that money for combat operations came from the army's existing budget and this affected things like training.

"Naturally it [the campaign] means cutting some of the army's necessities ... And in some places difficulties with food supplies start," he said.

The Defense Ministry's figures say funds for provisions from the 1995 budget were halved to 1.7 trillion rubles from 1994. The budget for this year would only cover 74 percent of food requirements to the armed forces because it had not taken account of debts, the Defense Ministry said in a news release.