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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Army Looks to the CIS for a Few Good Men

Unable to find enough volunteers and conscripts to fill its ranks, the military is planning to recruit citizens from other former Soviet republics to serve in its all-volunteers units, the Defense Ministry said.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the armed forces will recruit young men from throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States to serve as professional soldiers for three years.

Those whose conduct is flawless will be able to obtain Russian citizenship.

"A decision has been made to recruit volunteers from the CIS," Ivanov was quoted by Komsomolskaya Pravda as saying in its Wednesday issue.

Russian law requires males between the ages of 18 and 27 to join the army for two years or participate in alternative service for 3 1/2 years. But draft-dodging and numerous exemptions from military service have left the 1.1 million-strong armed forces without enough men.

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday ordering the conscription of 175,000 young men this spring, but the Defense Ministry's mobilization and personnel planners doubt they will be able to fill the quota. In previous years, desperate draft officials have recruited young men who are physically or mentally unfit for service.

Ivanov said he hoped Russian-speaking volunteers from neighboring countries would be more qualified and fit for service.

"We may get a good contingent, people who are much healthier than those we recruit now," he told Komsomolskaya Pravda.

The Russian military has also been trying to attract volunteers for years, but the wages offered by the Defense Ministry remain too low to attract sufficient numbers.

Professional soldiers are paid about $150 per month.

While being too low for Russians, the wages might look attractive to citizens of Russia's poorer neighbors, who already travel here to fill civil-sector jobs that are unpopular among Russians.

The Defense Ministry, which has about 130,000 professional soldiers, plans to fill all of its so-called permanent readiness units with volunteers by 2008.

The 1998 law on military service would have to be amended to allow citizens of other countries to serve in Russia's forces.

In a contradiction of the law, Russian military units based in CIS republics such as Tajikistan and Armenia already have servicemen who are not Russian citizens. Typically, the servicemen served in those units in Soviet times and volunteered to stay on after the break-up of the Soviet Union, a Defense Ministry official said Wednesday.

The official, who asked not to be named, said a special commission has been set up under the auspices of the presidential administration to study what should be done to grant citizenship to those servicemen.

The commission will also draft amendments allowing CIS citizens to be recruited, he said.

Oksana Smirnova contributed to this story.