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Å lese historien om hvordan en 18 år gammel idealistisk russisk gutt blir mobbet til døde i hæren er hjerteskjærende. Særlig fordi dette ikke er en enestående historie. Soldatmødrenes organisasjon anslår at 3.000 blir mobbet til døde hvert eneste år. Det er ikke til å tro.

For Max Buchin var det en familietradisjon å tjenestegjøre i hæren. I tsar-Russland holdt man både fest og gravøl når et familiemedlem iførte seg uniform. Tjenestetiden var 25 år og det var ikke alle som holdt så lenge. Putins hær er råere enn tsarens noensinne var.

Systemet med mobbing kalles dovsjtsjina, det er seniorenes rett til å hundse juniorene. I den russiske hæren skjer det med en råskap og brutalitet som nesten ikke er til å fatte. Dette skjer mot egne landsmenn. En kan tenke seg hvordan de da farer frem mot «fienden» – f.eks. tsjetsjenerne.

The next day Maxim was hospitalised for two weeks, apparently having endured a beating from senior officers. «They beat him with everything they can lay their hands on – belts, stools», said Mikhail Riabov, a former officer and friend of Olga who took the phone from her when she became too distressed to speak. «They beat him on the hands, feet and kidneys so there are no traces.»

Som alt i Russland er brutalitet og penger tett forbundet: Folk med makt misbruker sin posisjon til å presse underordnede: (Olga er moren)

Maxim’s sergeant was also allegedly asking for money from him, even suggesting Olga sell her mobile for £30. But there are many other nice earners for Russia’s corrupt officer class, Mr Riabov said. Conscripts were used as couriers for goods stolen from the base. They used a local train network as a distribution system and, if they were caught, it would be the conscript and not the officer that took the rap.

On June 18, an officer relieved Maxim from guard duty to go and buy some vodka. But Maxim never returned. Instead he drank the vodka, and wrote three letters, detailing months of abuse.

He etched in biro on his upper arm: «Mother forgive me. I am afraid.» His headless body was found on a railway track near the base, along with the letters, which are now evidence in an investigation. Olga was informed of his death by the army in a 20-word letter the next day.

Slik forsvarer en talsmann for forsvarsdepartementet systemet:

A spokesman for the defence ministry said conscripts re2_kommentared necessary until the army switched to paid volunteers in the coming years. He described dedovshchina as «a natural process among men when one of them wants to be a leader … It’s no worse in Russia than in any other European army.»

Mobbingen har vært tema i mange år, men ingenting har skjedd. Noen ser seg tjent med at det er slik:

Pavel Felgenhauer, a defence analyst, said dedovshchina was deliberately created to instill discipline in the absence of professional sergeants in the army. «The conscription system is totally pointless and was created in the 19th century,» he said.

He added that for today’s military challenges, such as fighting militants in the north Caucuses, «fighting with conscripts is like sending second-year medical students to do heart surgery».

He said the top brass, who retain the mindset of the Soviet era «want this huge army of workers and peasants they can mobilise if Nato attacks».

Valentina Melnikova, from the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, which has formed a political party to end conscription, said: «The military system in Russia is designed to create weak people who will fulfil any order, even shoot dead protesters in a crowded square.»

Ms Melnikova said: «You can’t trust any figures. Nobody properly counts these boys. It’s pure Soviet madness.»

Den sørgelige historien er skrevet av Guardians nye Moskva-korrespondent; Nick Paton Walsh.

Young, patriotic and bullied to death