Attrition: Sick Soldiers In Siberia Seen As Suspicious


December 20, 2010: The Russian Military Prosecutor's Office is investigating why 250 soldiers in a Siberian base were recently sent to a hospital. Most had severe breathing problems, the result of infections. One soldier was suffering from kidney failure. Some are blaming the problems on new uniforms, made of new materials and containing new, and possibly, toxic, chemicals. The local commanders dismiss this, and insist that the number of troops hospitalized is typical for this time of year. Siberia is very cold, with temperatures -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) this year. But the media got hold of the story, prompted by concerned parents, and now an investigation is underway.

Whatever the specific cause of the illnesses, the main culprit will likely be the persistence of corruption in the military. The ranking of nations, according to their level of corruption, shows Russia one of the more corrupt nations on the planet. While the government publicizes some big anti-corruption cases, where senior officials are sometimes busted for trying to extort large bribes, a wider survey reveals that the corruption is still widespread and resistant to any cure, so far.

An example of how this works can be seen in the complaints of soldiers, especially conscripts, about abuse while in the military. Shortages of equipment, ammunition, and even food, are common. And there are conscripts, their starved bodies returned to their parents, to prove it. The government goes through a show of punishing commanders responsible, but the corruption continues. Now the government controls most of the major media, so  there are few stories of starving soldiers, and fewer starving soldiers to report about. Yet the corruption just flourishes elsewhere, when it is stamped out in one area. As for the lack of reporting, the Internet has taken up the slack, so there is still pressure on the government to do something. But the corruption continues.

This time there is an official investigation, and a government that does keep trying to nail corrupt officials. So something interesting may happen here.




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