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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Allows Students Draft Deferrals

Russia's parliament on Thursday passed a bill allowing men to avoid the draft up until age 20 if they are enrolled in high school or professional or vocational schools, amid a renewed push to reform the military.

All Russian men between 18 and 27 eligible for the draft and are required to serve at least two years in the bloated, underfunded military.

But the majority receive exemptions, often for medical reasons, and many bribe their way out. Russian teen-agers across the country dread the draft because of the rampant hazing, squalid conditions and the war in breakaway Chechnya.

Students in high school are sometimes enrolled straight from their classrooms. And while students enrolled in universities can receive deferrals, those in vocational schools have not been eligible.

On Thursday, Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed a bill that allows men to continue their studies up until age 20 without being conscripted. The bill must still go to the upper house and the president for final approval. It would take effect as of Sept. 1, so it would not apply to those being called up for the spring draft that started this week.

Russia's new defense minister Sergei Ivanov said last week that the draft will gradually be abolished, but in the meantime the military is preparing to conscript nearly 200,000 in the spring draft.

Officials have long promised to downsize the unwieldy army Russia inherited from the Soviet Union.