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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Regions to Try Out Alternatives to Army Conscription

Legislators who advocate permitting alternatives to compulsory army service hope to rally support for the idea through trial programs in Russia's regions, they said this week.

Currently, Russia's constitutional guarantee of a right to perform alternative service means little because supporting legislation has been repeatedly rejected by the communist-dominated State Duma.

Duma Deputy Valery Borshchev, the sponsor of a measure to establish alternative service that was rejected Oct. 7, said the trial projects would show that the practice would not undermine the armed forces and would provide needed manpower for hospitals and orphanages.

Even in the absence of a law, some draftees who announce their desire to do alternative service are being sent by local draft boards to construction battalions, Borshchev said at a round table conference on the issue Thursday.

The pilot program proposal aims to get Defense Ministry approval to send these young men to work instead at non-military public institutions in regions where the local political leadership is sympathetic to the idea.

St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has expressed support for the idea of alternative service, and the legislature in the Tartarstan republic is considering a local alternative-service law.

"We need to shape public opinion f this is the goal of the ? experiment we want to conduct f to have people perform alternative service in the public health sphere and so to put pressure on the government, the Duma and the presidential administration," Borshchev said.

Although the Duma is squabbling over what form the alternative service should take, the real obstacle is that the Duma's communist and nationalist majority are opposed to alternative service in any form, Borshchev said.

"There is a strong Defense Ministry lobby in the Duma, and their goal is that there should be no law," Borshchev said. "We could surmount the disagreements, and we have begun to do that."

Another supporter, Duma Deputy Eduard Vorobyov, said the current situation breeds contempt for law.

"We are pushing young people to take the illegal road," he told the round table participants. "Failing to pass this law leads to the legal decay of society."