Sat, Jul 11, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Crime by Russia’s officers increases to 10-year high

REUTERS , MOSCOW

Crime among officers in Russia’s armed forces soared to a 10-year high in the first half of this year, the chief military prosecutor said on Thursday, threatening Kremlin attempts to galvanize the country’s defense capability.

Russia has begun a radical reform of its military in a bid to combat low morale and create a smaller but better equipped and better paid combat-ready force.

The Kremlin-backed changes aim to more than halve the bloated numbers of officers, now a third of all servicemen.

“The scale of crime among officers has risen beyond all reasonable limits,” chief military prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky told a televised meeting with military prosecutors, noting that both junior and senior ranks were involved in the corruption.

Problems include embezzlement of military property, theft of funds earmarked for procurement of weapons and fraud in the allocation of housing for officers.

“The theft of hundreds of millions of roubles of budget funds ... in the final account thwarts strengthening the state’s defence capability and combat-readiness of the armed forces,” Fridinsky said.

Army and navy officers have committed more than a quarter of all crimes registered in the armed forces this year, he said.

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