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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Seeks to Assuage Students

APYashin having his head shaved at the rally outside the Defense Ministry on Tuesday.
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sought to assuage students worried by the military's push for an end to education deferments from military service, saying the government had not yet decided on the issue.

Putin is facing a surge of public anger over the monetization of benefits for millions of pensioners and other socially vulnerable groups, and his comments on the unpopular draft appeared to signal his desire to avoid another potentially explosive issue.

"There should be no total cancellation of deferments," Putin said during a meeting with students from Moscow State University.

Several dozen students and activists gathered in front of the Defense Ministry headquarters near the Arbatskaya metro station on Tuesday to protest any cancellation of student deferments.

More than 50 members of the youth branches of the liberal Yabloko and SPS parties held signs at the rally reading "Down With Draft Slavery!" and shouted "Fire Ivanov!" referring to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Interfax reported.

Ilya Yashin, head of Yabloko's youth wing, had his head shaved in a sign of protest. "We demand the Defense Ministry abandon the draft immediately and move toward a volunteer Army," Yashin said, Interfax reported.

Ivanov previously had suggested that student deferments from military service would be canceled, but then reversed himself last week, saying the government was still considering the issue. "No one intends to press-gang students into the Army," Ivanov said Friday.

But Ivanov said that his ministry could look again at cutting exemptions in late 2005 or early 2006, as the deadline nears for reducing the term for compulsory military service.

(AP, MT)