The suicides of two soldiers on two consecutive days have again highlighted festering problems in Kazakhstan’s armed forces.
One conscript hanged himself at a military unit Astana on April 4 while the next day a young private killed himself in a military unit in Karaganda by shooting himself in the neck, the Zakon.kz website reported.
Two 20-year-old privates were arrested on suspicion of driving the soldier in Karaganda, in northeastern Kazakhstan, to suicide by hazing – the practice of army bullying common in many post-Soviet militaries. The arrests suggest Kazakhstan’s military is starting to take hazing – a phenomenon that has for years been quietly tolerated – seriously.
Last June the commander of a border post near China was arrested with two other soldiers on suspicion of hazing after 11 conscripts deserted from the Tersayryk unit in northeastern Kazakhstan to protest their treatment.
In October a military court sentenced the commander to three years in jail and the other two soldiers to seven years each.
Kazakhstan’s Border Guard Service, which falls under the remit of the powerful KNB domestic intelligence service, has had a troubled year, starting with a bizarre mass slaughter in a remote outpost near the border with China last May that was blamed on rogue conscript Vladislav Chelakh.
A military conscript accused of a massacre at a border unit near Kazakhstan’s frontier with China has been found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Vladislav Chelakh was found guilty on nine charges including murder, desertion, stealing weapons, and damaging military property on December 11, Bnews.kz reported. His conviction followed a month-long trial during which he has displayed erratic behavior.
Chelakh, now 20, was arrested following a May massacre at the Arkankergen border unit in southeastern Kazakhstan. When military officials investigated after losing contact with the remote post, they found 15 people dead, Chelakh’s fellow border guards and one national park ranger. The border unit had been set on fire in an apparent attempt to conceal the crime.
Chelakh was found hiding in the forest and confessed, saying that military hazing had made him “flip.” He later recanted his confession, saying he had been pressured, and testified at the trial that his post had been attacked by “serious people” in civilian clothes. He said he had fled in terror and burned down the border post to conceal evidence in fear that his story would not be believed.
It might have been the Tajik president’s birthday, but Vladimir Putin got what he wanted.
As expected, defense talks dominated the Russian president’s October 4-5 trip to Tajikistan. Before Putin landed in Dushanbe, the future of Russia’s military bases in the country was the source of boundless speculation and conflicting statements from officials on both sides.
In the end, on October 5 defense ministers signed a deal to keep some 7,000 Russian troops stationed in Tajikistan through 2042. But Tajikistan’s president, Emomali Rakhmon, managed to save face, embracing a playful Putin and receiving some crucial support for his ailing economy.
Under the new agreement, the 201st Motorized Rifle Division in Tajikistan – Russia’s largest posting of land forces abroad – can keep its three bases “practically for free,” the Asia-Plus news agency quoted Putin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov as saying. Russia, in turn, promised to help modernize the Tajik military and accept more Tajik migrant laborers.
The current lease for the bases expires in 2014, when NATO troops are expected to pull out of Afghanistan. Moscow is concerned that resulting violence could spill over the long and porous border with Tajikistan.