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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soldiers in St. Pete Bemoan Sex Abuse

Male soldiers in St. Petersburg contend they were forced into prostitution by higher-ups, the soldiers' rights group Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees said Monday.

A retired FSB general and a former colonel who is now a banker were among those who paid the soldiers for their services, Ella Polyakov of the union's St. Petersburg office said one of the soldiers told her.

Military prosecutors said they were investigating the allegations, while Interior Ministry spokesman Vasily Panchenkov rebuked the union.

The group's aim, Panchenko said, was not to "defend the rights of military personnel but to discredit the armed services."

The armed services have faced numerous cases of hazing in recent years. The case of 19-year-old Private Andrei Sychyov, whose genitals and legs were amputated after he was hazed, has drawn national attention to the plight of many conscripts.

"Violent hazing results in the death of dozens of young soldiers every year, and serious injuries to thousands more," Human Rights Watch said in a report last year.

Panchenko dismissed any talk of senior officials paying for sex supplied by young soldiers.

A soldier serving in a brigade based on Millionaya Ulitsa told the Fontanka.ru news site that he and others were forced into service by longer-serving military personnel, who would provide the soldiers with client lists. Sometimes clients reportedly turned up at the base in the middle of the night to pick up soldiers.

Polyakova, for her part, said two soldiers from the brigade, close to the Palace Square, were forced into prostitution. One filed an initial complaint in 2003, and the other did so this month, she added.

"He said they were given a list of clients," Polyakova said, recalling what one of the soldiers had said. "If they didn't work, they were beaten."

Soldiers were reportedly paid as much as 1,000 rubles ($38) daily for selling themselves.

Polyakova cast doubt on some of the allegations. One of the young men who had reported that he had been forced into prostitution, "is just a country boy," she said.

One soldier at the base was recently expelled for being HIV positive, and another was expelled for having hepatitis, Polyakova said.

"They did not investigate how they caught these diseases," Polyakova said.

Seventy soldiers who were discovered to be HIV positive were expelled from the Army in 2005, Pravda reported last year.

Polyakova said she met with a high-placed official in the Leningrad military district Friday who had asked her to keep quiet about the matter.

The brigade in question has featured in previous hazing allegations. A 2004 Human Rights Watch report quoted soldiers from the base complaining of being abused.

In an investigation made public last summer, Sobesednik, a weekly news tabloid, reported that prostitution was widespread in the army. Certain bases, including one in charge of security for the General Staff based outside Moscow, had especially bad reputations for prostitution, the tabloid reported.