Russia finds conscript who alleged hazing guilty of fatal shooting spree

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court on Monday found a conscript guilty of murdering eight people at his base last year, but said his prison term for the spree, which he alleged was triggered by bullying, should be less than normal for such a serious crime.

Ramil Shamsutdinov opened fire on servicemen at a military facility in the far eastern region of Zabaikalsk on Oct. 25. He was detained shortly after the incident and admitted his guilt.

The case is embarrassing for the military, which has been revamped in recent years at great cost, projects an image of might, and says it has stamped out the Soviet-era problem of hazing - the bullying of conscripts by older soldiers.

A jury in the Chita region said Shamsutdinov deserved a lenient sentence of no more than two thirds of the maximum punishment for the crime, the RIA news agency reported. He is still likely to be handed a long jail term.

In a separate trial in March, a court sentenced one of Shamsutdinov's fellow servicemen to a suspended two-year sentence for beating soldiers, including Shamsutdinov whom he once kicked, RIA reported.

Shamsutdinov's defence team has said that the bullying went much further than that.

The defence ministry has said that Shamsutdinov had a nervous breakdown for personal reasons.

Russian men aged 18-27 are legally required to serve one year in the army. Some Russians go to great lengths to dodge the draft, in part because of fears of hazing despite a drive to stamp the practice out.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)