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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Alternative Service Bill Goes to Cabinet

After three weeks of stormy debate, the military, Cabinet and State Duma on Tuesday reached a compromise bill on alternative military service that allows draftees to serve outside army bases and near their hometowns.

Left in the draft law, which is expected to get final approval from the Cabinet on Thursday, are military proposals requiring civil servicemen to serve up to four years -- compared to two years in the army -- and be subject to background checks.

"On Feb. 14, we will consider the bill that has been agreed on with the deputies so that the deputies will withdraw their alternative drafts and will consider just one version," Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told the Moskovskiye Novosti weekly.

Duma deputies have drawn up three separate bills on alternative service. The Defense Ministry's own bill drew criticism from the Cabinet, Duma and human rights activists for provisions such as making draftees put in up to four years and possibly sending them to regions far from their homes.

Vladimir Lysenko, a deputy in the Russian Regions faction and a co-author of one of the bills, said the compromise included a number of "serious, positive changes" from the military's version.

"All those who choose alternative military service will live at home, go to work and work under the Labor Code, while in the evening they will be given an opportunity to study," Lysenko said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

He also said the military had objected to giving civil servicemen the right to study as it makes them more privileged than regular servicemen, but it gave in to pressure from the Cabinet.

He also praised the change allowing recruits to perform civil service outside of military bases, a move resisted by the Defense Ministry.

The military -- while not insisting that draftees prove their aversion to weapons -- wants alternative service commissions to be given the right to double-check information supplied by conscripts with the police, school teachers, employers and relatives.

The military also is calling for two years of alternative service for conscripts with university degrees and four years for those without. Lawmakers are seeking 18 months for university graduates and three years for those without higher education.

Lysenko said he and the other co-authors of his bill -- Alexander Barannikov and Eduard Vorobyov -- have not yet decided whether they will withdraw their version in light of the remaining discrepancies.

Once approved by the Cabinet, the bill will go to the Duma for a first reading.

The 1993 Constitution grants draftees the right to seek alternative service if they cannot perform army service for religious or ethical reasons. There is no law enforcing this right.