The recent events testify that the Belarusian army needs to be reformed in short order.
The death of 21-year-old conscript Aliaksandr Korzhych in Pechy near Barysau went viral first on the Internet, and then in whole Belarus. It gets us to talk over the goings-on in our army and demand its reforming.
Why did such a thing happen?
The so-called "hazing in the military" has been inherited from the Soviet Army. At that time, most of the military units maintained discipline with the help of the paracriminal senior conscripts – as they were called: "scoops" (after one year of service), "grandfathers" (after 1.5 years) and "demobees" (who had less than six months left). Young soldiers were subjected to various "management methods," including beating, coercion to humiliating work, and giving nicknames. Deaths were not uncommon, but the command often wrote them off as suicides or accidents.
Something similar happened to soldier Aliaksandr Korzhych, whose mother gave him to the country to carry out the military duty and who was called up to the service, despite a serious heart disease. In telephone conversations, he repeatedly complained of hazing, of extorting money. Lately, he was phoning from somebody else’s phone. When his clothes was changed at home before the funeral, there were seen big bruises around the perineum, liver and kidneys, strange injuries on the head, and a wide wale, not typical for a strangling, on the neck. The guy was buried with military honors in a cemetery in his native village on October 5.
It has become known that the Investigative Committee instituted criminal proceedings on the fact of Korzhych’s death in notorious Barysau’s Pechy. Lukashenka took control of the case.
According to Korzhych’s relatives and friends, the cause of his death was cruel mockery and infliction of bodily harm, which followed by a staged suicide. However, let’s think again. Let’s wait for the investigation results and the subsequent trial.
What is our army?
Now there are about 65 thousand people in the Armed Forces of Belarus. Among them, there are 14.5 thousand officers, 6850 ensigns, 25.6 thousand soldiers and sergeants, 3.5 thousand cadets, over 16 thousand civil servants.
The Belarusian army consists of the Land Forces, the Air Forces and the Air Defense Forces. There are also Special Operations Forces, special troops, rear services.
There have not been any major changes in the Armed Forces of Belarus, except for the reduction in force after the USSR collapsed, and some kind of renewal of weapons and equipment (sometimes at the expense of Russia). You might as well say that our army is a slightly transformed Belarusian military district, which has not become a proper national army. Neither by the language, nor by its traditions, nor by the form, nor by the armament.
The Belarusian army ranks 45th among 126 countries in the world armed forces ranking. The first three lines belong to the armies of the United States, Russia and China. In terms of formal indicators, we outstrip a number of CIS countries – Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
In 2015, Belarus spent 725 million dollars on the army maintenance, which is 1% of GDP. In the budget of 2017, 924 million rubles have been allocated to the army.
The situation with the reinforcement of the Belarusian army is more than complicated. One of the reasons is that the health condition of conscripts worsens, not everyone can be classified as fit for military service. The demographic decline of recent years also affects the situation. Another reason is the fear of hazing.
The West-2017 exercises that took place in September showed that the Belarusian military units played a secondary role there.
The term of the compulsory military service is now 18 months, for those who have graduated from higher education institutions, 12 months. On July 1, 2016, Belarus finally introduced the alternative service for a period of 36 months (for people with higher education – 24 months). However, it does not enjoy popularity among young people: both because of the long terms and the kind of proposed work.
The potential of the Belarusian army is not high, and the army risks to degrade, like the whole country. The reason is still the same – the lack of money. But, as one Russian politician said, you hold onto your hat. And march in lockstep.
Who will account for the soldier?
Since 1992, the Law "On Military Duty and Military Service" (with amendments and additions) has been in force in Belarus. A lot of issues have been registered in it, including those dealing with the call-up to the service, with the deferment from the draft, the career pattern, its terms, military uniform. However, nothing is said about the responsibility for the fate of the soldier, in particular his death, while performing military duties.
The list of military crimes (Article 32 of the Criminal Code) refers to the non-fulfillment of an order, resistance to the commanding officer, violent actions against the commanding officer, violation of the statutory rules of the relationship. The criminal case on Aliaksandr Korzhych’s death was initiated under this very article of the Criminal Code (Article 443).
The Internet has informed about other facts: the investigation into the death of conscript Artsiom Bastiuk, who had died in the same military unit, continued for six months. According to the deceased’s father, seven expert examinations were performed. It is fair to assume that such cases are deliberately dragged on to curb public interest, and, as they say, to tie up loose ends.
I support the demand of many Belarusians to conduct a thorough and objective investigation into Aliaksandr Korzhych’s death. We must take on the task of reforming the army. In any case, I believe, it should be entirely changed into a volunteer army, and there should be conducted short-term gatherings for conscripts. I believe that there are good reasons to abandon pompous military parades and purchasing expensive weapons. Savings can be spent on the pension fund, on payments to low-income families, on benefits for the birth of children and care for them.
We are peaceful people. We are not going to fight with anyone and adhere to the principle of neutrality. For security reasons, instead of keeping an expensive army, it is better to garner the support of strong states under the control of international organizations (the UN and the OSCE).
Mikhail Pastukhou, sn-plus.com