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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Orders Cabinet to Draw Up Military Reform

President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Cabinet to draft a bill reducing compulsory army service from two years to one from 2008, a presidential spokeswoman said Friday.

Putin on Thursday also ordered amendments that would abolish many exemptions from compulsory service and would allow contract soldiers who served at least three years to enter colleges and universities without taking entrance exams.

Defense Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov said the ministry would include a controversial and long-debated proposal to abolish exemptions for college and university students in the package of Putin-ordered amendments.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov created an uproar nearly a year ago by calling for exemptions to be canceled for students who undergo training as reserve officers.

He then backtracked after drawing fire from the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees and other nongovernmental organizations that champion the rights of conscripts and other soldiers.

The ministry, however, released a drastically shortened list of colleges and universities that will be allowed to provide military training to students starting next September. The number of approved schools is to drop from 229 to 25 by 2010.

Sedov refused to say what deadline the Defense Ministry had been given to sign off on the bill and amendments, but said the legislation would be ready to go into force beginning on Jan. 1, 2008.

Valentina Melnikova, the head of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, dismissed the proposal to shorten mandatory service to a year as a reform unlikely to solve the military's problems.

"It will not change anything. The Russian Army does not need and cannot rely on soldiers drafted on a compulsory basis," Melnikova said.

She said the military would only grow stronger by turning into a fully professional force composed of contract servicemen.

Putin and the military have indicated that the military does not plan to make such a reform.