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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Northern Fleet Accuses 9 of Hazing

Nine Russian sailors are awaiting trial at the Northern Fleet on charges of brutally beating and harassing fellow servicemen.

The case is one of several recent incidents in the armed forces involving Dagestanis. Military officials deny that men from the North Caucasus republic are more prone to violence or that ethnic hatred played a part in the clashes.

The nine Dagestani sailors under arrest are accused of beating 17 servicemen, seriously injuring some of them, from February to July on a ship docked at the fleet's base at Severomorsk.

"It is just a normal case of hazing," Pavel Vodinsky, chief military prosecutor of the Severomorsk garrison, said Tuesday. He would not identify the victims or the suspects or the ship on which they were serving.

The nine were arrested after a conscript broke the unwritten code of silence and reported to the ship's commander that they had threatened to sodomize him, Vodinsky said.

The case will be tried in the garrison's military court, and if convicted, the men could spend up to 10 years in prison, said Major Alexander Gorbachev of the local prosecutor's office.

Last month, a group of Dagestani sailors clashed with fellow servicemen on the Northern Fleet's Zharky patrol ship, Interfax reported.

The Northern Fleet, however, said it was a verbal argument with no ethnic basis.

In September, four Dagestani sailors of the Northern Fleet fled their unit and took 47 people, including 40 children, hostage. They demanded a plane to fly to Dagestan after learning that dozens of people had been killed or injured by a bomb in their homeland. The sailors were subdued by elite commandos of the Federal Security Service.

In yet another case, reported by the Kommersant Daily newspaper, 40 Dagestani soldiers in the Volga River region of Saratov fled their units with their rifles in August. They were intending to help a local gang of Dagestanis settle a score with a rival gang, but were stopped by FSB officers and police.

A duty officer at Dagestan's military registration and enlistment office, Georgy Sbitnev, said local conscripts are no more inclined to violence than those from other Russian regions.

"The level of hazing in a unit depends not on what nationality servicemen are, but on the commander" and his will to enforce strict discipline, Sbitnev said.The crime rate is fairly low among conscripts from the North Caucasus, the second largest supplier of conscripts among the nine military districts, he said. Of the 158,512 recruits to be enlisted this fall, 22,000 will be sent from that region.

The Moscow Carnegie Center's regional expert Nikolai Petrov said while conscripts from the North Caucasus are no more violent thanother Russian soldiers, they are more likely to form informal units during military service to repel hazing and rough treatment by other servicemen.

"They are less tolerant of rough treatment by officers and won't tolerate some things that Slavic soldiers would," Petrov said. "That is mostly because in relations [between natives of the North Caucasus] equality and mutual respect prevail, regardless of their posts."