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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Group Urges Draft Deferrals To Modernize Armed Forces

In an effort to help modernize the armed forces, an education group has proposed giving more men draft deferrals so they can learn professional skills and contribute more once they serve.

The group, called the Russian Public Council for Developing Education, said Monday that young men who study in technical schools or become teachers should be given deferrals until they finish their studies.

After that, the men would serve as officers or in areas where they could put their learning to use, rather than serving in the lowest ranks, where brutal hazing is common.

"Modernizing the army is above all about calling up not cannon fodder but educated and qualified specialists," said Alexei Venediktov, a member of the council and editor of the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

The law already gives deferrals to university students and men teaching in villages — a Soviet-era rule aimed at bringing more teachers to rural Russia.

The army has struggled to fill its draft rolls in recent years, partly because many young men pay bribes for medical waivers and other exemptions. As a result, draftees tend to be poor young men from the countryside who can’t afford to buy their way out.

Meanwhile, a human rights group on Tuesday accused the military of ignoring conscripts’ medical exemptions and sending soldiers into service even though they are unfit.

The Soldiers’ Mothers Committee of Russia claimed that draft boards habitually refuse to accept the medical documents on the grounds that they are fakes or obtained through bribes.

A spokesman for the Defense Ministry denied the allegations.

"On the contrary, it’s not in the army’s interest to allow sick young men to serve," spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov said Tuesday.

The Soldiers’ Mothers’ claim came just days into the fall draft period. Russia has two three-month draft periods each year.