MOSCOW -- Military prosecutors and top officers yesterday pledged a thorough inquiry into one of the most brutal hazing incidents in the Russian military in years -- an 18-year-old soldier whose legs and genitals had to be amputated because of beatings and torture by fellow servicemen.
Human rights groups assailed military officials, saying they condone rampant bullying, and warned such crimes would persist until the nation abolishes the draft in favor of an all-volunteer army.
Doctors said Private Andrei Sychev's legs and genitals were amputated after the New Year's Eve incident at the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy, in which older soldiers forced him to spend hours in a crouched position and brutally beat him.
At least seven other conscripts also were beaten, but they sustained less serious injuries, prosecutors said. Russian news agencies said eight servicemen, including several officers, were detained in the Ural Mountains city of Chelyabinsk.
Sychev was hospitalized several days after the beating, in critical condition and unable to stand, and investigators were seeking to determine why he was not treated immediately, a prosecutors' statement said.
Authorities failed to notify Sychev's mother, Galina, until after he underwent his first amputation. ''Why didn't anyone tell me: Come here, your son is in grave condition?" she said in televised remarks, wiping her tears.
Sychev, who is in grave condition and unable to speak, scribbled the name of his most cruel tormentor on a piece of paper, his mother said.
His sister, Marina, told Russian television he had pleaded with his family to take him home for a New Year's leave.
When his relatives said they couldn't make the trip, Sychev said: ''What shall I do here? I have gotten sick of looking at these drunken bastards," his sister said.
Russia's defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, promised to punish the culprits. ''We won't cover anything . . . or anyone up," he said yesterday in televised remarks.
But in comments earlier in the day, he appeared to play down the incident, saying on Ekho Mosvky radio, ''There is nothing serious there, otherwise I would have certainly known about it."
His remarks sparked outrage from rights activists, who said military commanders were violating soldiers' rights and turning a blind eye to bullying in the Russian armed forces.
According to official statistics, 16 soldiers died of hazing last year, but specialists say the actual number of deaths is much higher, with many conscripts driven to suicide by abuse and other bullying deaths passed off as resulting from illnesses.
The Defense Ministry said 276 servicemen killed themselves in 2005, but didn't offer any details.
Chief military prosecutor Alexander Savenkov acknowledged last year that the number of hazing incidents has risen in recent years.
He said half of the military suicides were caused by hazing.