[JURIST] A Russia military court on Tuesday found a Russian army sergeant guilty of abuse of power and sentenced him to four years in jail for beating and torturing a conscript soldier [RFE report] this past New Year's Eve. Russian prosecutors had sought six years in prison for Alexander Sivyakov, who denied beating Private Andrei Sychev but has admitted to beating two other soldiers in December. Sychev was so badly abused that his legs and genitals had to be amputated and he remains in hospital. After the Sychev reports surfaced prompting widespread public outcry, Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov blamed Russian society for fostering a culture of military abuse [JURIST report].
Following a long national history of military conscription [HRW backgrounder], current Russian law provides for a two-year mandatory draft, but most candidates manage to avoid this by bribery or doctors' certificates, leading to low-quality intake and frustrated officers. Many who are conscripted have to be forcibly detained [HRW backgrounder]. The Russian Defense Ministry [official website] says that in 2005 16 Russian soldiers died of bullying and some 256 committed suicide [MosNews report]. In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that shortens the conscription term [JURIST report] from two years to one beginning in 2008 and wipes out five accepted reasons for military draft deferments.