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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Backs Army Training in Schools

The State Duma on Friday overwhelmingly passed in the first reading amendments to a law that would restore the Soviet tradition of mandatory military training in schools in an effort to raise the prestige of the military.

The vote was 338-42. Only two liberal parties, Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, opposed the law, which must go through two more readings before it is passed.

President Vladimir Putin said at the Kremlin a week ago during a meeting with teachers that such training "is not bad, it's necessary and useful."

He also acknowledged that such training alone is unlikely to make military service attractive to young people. Russia still has a draft, but student deferments are available, and many young people evade service by paying bribes.

Plunging morale and other signs of collapse have continued to tarnish the armed forces.

A decommissioned nuclear submarine being towed toward shore sank and killed nine crew members in August, almost exactly three years after the Kursk sank in the same waters, killing all 118 on board.

The air force's spate of disasters included three crashes in one day in August.

The Interfax-AVN military news agency recently quoted General Nikolai Reznik, a senior military official, as saying the armed forces were searching for 1,800 deserters. Reznik said many recruits were "in poor health and poorly educated," undermining discipline.

On Wednesday, in the most recent display of morale problems, discharged army officers from Smolensk began a march to Moscow to demand better housing.