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Independent NGO Report: ‘The Redundant Soldier. Forced Labour in the Russian Army’

Source: (info), 24/02/12

· Articles by human rights defenders  · Army  · Conscripts’ rights

On 22 February 2012, an independent NGO report ‘The Redundant Soldier. Forced Labour in the Russian Army’ (in Russian - for a summary in English see here) was presented to journalists and experts in Moscow. The report by Lyudmila Vakhnina of Memorial, Moscow, and a member of the Expert Council of the Russian Ombudsman, has been published by the Centre for the Development of Democracy & Human Rights.

The report is based on monitoring and other human rights work by an association of more than 20 civil society organizations in a number of Russian regions, ‘The Redundant Soldier’.

The report provides case studies of a hundred of instances of forced labour of conscripts and contract soldiers, and other unlawful actions related to military service. The report also presents an analysis of legislation and law enforcement practice, and includes recommendations on improving the situation.

The report argues that the use of soldiers for forced labour, and sometimes simply slave labour, is widespread and is born of deeply-rooted corruption in the military, both among commanders who regularly violate the law and corrupted civilians who head construction sites and commercial companies.


The report analyses more than 400 instances of the unlawful use of the labour of military personnel in 50 regions since 2003. The regions in question are: Amur, Astrakhan, Belgorod, Vladimir, Volgograd, Vologda, Voronezh, Ivanova, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Kamchatka, Kemerovo, Kostroma, St Petersburg city and Leningrad region, Moscow city and Moscow region, Murmansk, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Orenburg, Orel, Penza, Pskov, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Saratov, Sakhalin, Sverdlovsk, Tver, Tula, Chelyabinsk, Zabaikal, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Perm, Primorye, Stavropol, Khabarovsk, Jewish Autonomous Region, Adygei, Dagestan, Ingushetiya, Kabardino-Balkariya, Karachaevo-Cherkesiya, Severnaya Osetiya – Alaniya, Tatarstan, Khakasiya.

Most of the instances have been reported by organizations that are taking part in the programme and other non-profits. Reports in media and the Internet were used less. It is clear that the examples cited are only a very small proportion of the violations that actually take place.

The report only cites the names of soldiers who have already been named in the press or on the Internet, or have given permission for their names to be made public, in line with the usual practice in the writing of human rights reports, including the reports of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation. Military units are identified only to show where most violations have occurred.

This report is issued under a new title. We have tried to show that the problem cannot be reduced to that of using the labour of soldiers for work unrelated to their military duties. There is no clear definition of such work in legislation, and the military command interprets it very broadly.

Moreover, in accordance with Convention 105 of the International Labour Organization, even many forms of work that could be considered to fall within the notion of military duties should be considered as forced labour since they are carried out with crude violations of labour and other rights, do not meet safety norms, and are not paid in accordance with the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’. At the same time military service personnel cannot refuse to do this work on such unfavourable terms.

This practice promotes widespread corruption and must be considered in the context of crimes such as the receipt of government money for work done by soldiers, blackmail, and various kinds of criminal activity committed by persons who have access to military units. The facts set out in the report must be given serious attention, not least because of calls by the political leadership of the country to ‘humanize military service..


The materials of the report were collected by non-profits that are participating in the programme ‘The Redundant Soldier’, as well as other human rights groups.

Astrakhan region. Committee of Soliders’ Mothers. Liubov Garlivanova, Anatoly Salin

Volgograd region. Volgograd Regional Human Rights Organization of Parents of Military Service Personnel Mothers’ Right. Nina Ponomarev

Jewish Autonomous Region. Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers. Valentina Bychkova

Kaliningrad region. Committee of Soldiers’ Motehrs. Vladimir Mareev, Maria Bontsler

Kostroma region. Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers. Nina Terekhova, Yury Tikhomirov

Krasnodar region. Krymsk Soldiers’ Mothers ‘For Our Sons’, Krymsk. Valentina Babynina

Moscow city & Moscow region. Soldiers’ Mothers. Tatyana Kuznetsova

Murmansk region. Memorial. Irina Paikacheva

Nizhny Novgorod region. Dzerzhinsk Human Rights Centre, Emma Feldshtein

Orel region (Livny). Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers. Tatyana Mikhailova

Orel region (Orel city). Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers. Valentina Starovoitova

Perm region. Memorial. Irina Kizilova, Aleksandr Kalikh

Pskov region. Council of Soldiers’ Mothers. Valentina Afanasieva

St. Petersburg. Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg. Ella Polyakova, Viktor Andreev

Saratov region. Council of Soldiers’ Mothers. Lidiya Sviridova

Sverdlovsk region (Lesny). Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers. Nelli Markelova

Khabarovsk region. Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers. Valentina Reshetkina

Khabarovsk region. Khabarovsk regional Human Rights Centre. Pavel Shmakov

Chelyabinsk region. Association of Soldiers’ Mothers. Liudmila Zinchenko

Full report The Redundant Soldier. Forced Labour in the Russian Army: PDF Format (3 Mb)

Rights in Russia,
29 Feb 2012, 23:02