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Theft A Growing Problem in Commonwealth Military

February 29, 1992

MOSCOW (AP) _ The case of an army major sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for theft points to a growing problem in the former Soviet military: soldiers who steal, some out of desperation. The major told a military court he was unable to feed his family.

Morale in the 3.7 million-strong commonwealth military is dropping. Both recruits and professional soldiers have complained of low pay, inadequate housing, poor food and bad living conditions.

Last week, three people were killed when military construction troops rioted at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. They were protesting poor food, hazing and beatings.

Army thefts tripled last year, the chief military prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Independent States told the ITAR-Tass news agency on Friday. He said officers were responsible for one-fourth of the thefts.

Anatoly Muranov, head of the military’s court-martial department, told ITAR-Tass that the decline of military discipline and living standards in the former Soviet army have contributed to the rising number of thefts.

The convicted army major, Vladimir Ignatenko of the commonwealth’s strategic missile forces, told a military court he was unable to feed his three children, unemployed wife and elderly parents, the news agency said. It was unclear whether the stolen goods were military property.

In a separate incident, criminal proceedings were started Friday against three army officers who allegedly stole large quantites of food from the former Soviet Defense Ministry’s central food storage facility in the Belarussian city of Orsha, ITAR-Tass reported.

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