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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cabinet Backs Drive for More Troops

Itar-TassSergei Ivanov greeting ministers Viktor Khristenko and Rashid Nurgaliyev at the start of a Cabinet meeting Thursday.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Thursday won the Cabinet's approval for legislation that would allow the military to enlist more conscripts, and he asked for more money to hire volunteer soldiers.

The Cabinet debated behind closed doors the two bills that would cancel or change nine of the 25 draft deferments and require university students to serve upon graduation.

Colonel General Vasily Smirnov, head of the mobilization department of the armed forces General Staff, said afterward that the Cabinet had given its blessing, paving the way for the bills to be submitted to the State Duma.

Ivanov has said the proposed measures will allow the military to make up for a forecast shortage of conscripts after the length of mandatory service drops from two years to one in 2008. During the transition phase, conscripts drafted next year will serve 1 1/2 years.

One of the bills would remove deferments for rural teachers and doctors as well as employees of many state-owned research institutions, Smirnov said. Also, young men would be eligible for enlistment even if they were caring for retired or disabled relatives, had pregnant wives or were raising children under age 3.

The other bill would transform most of the Defense Ministry's 229 education departments at higher learning institutions into military education centers, Channel One television reported. If students were to take courses at the centers, they would have to serve as officers for three years after graduation, it said.

Under the current law, the Defense Ministry transfers the students who take the military courses into reserve units, and they do not have to serve active duty. If students do not take the courses, they are eligible for enlistment as regular conscripts when they graduate.

At the Cabinet meeting, Ivanov said a federal program to hire more volunteer soldiers needed an extra 5.3 billion rubles ($190 million) because of inflation, Interfax reported. Adopted in 2003, the program mostly funds the construction of housing for volunteers, he said. Ivanov said he had ordered military units to stop recruiting contract servicemen if the units could not house them. More than 60,000 soldiers and sergeants now serve on contracts, he said.

The ministry plans to draft 124,000 conscripts during the spring draft that kicks off on Saturday. The armed forces comprise 1.1 million people. About 500,000 are rank-and-file servicemen, said Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Center for Military Forecasting, a think tank.

State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov and the head of the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Comittees rights group, Valentina Melnikova, who together lead the liberal Republican Party, on Thursday reiterated a call for Ivanov's resignation and civil resistance to the spring draft. A key reason for Ivanov to step down, they said, was the hazing of Private Andrei Sychyov in Chelyabinsk on New Year's Eve. Doctors later had to amputate his legs and genitals.

As a way to avoid conscription, Melnikova urged conscripts to write letters to President Vladimir Putin, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov and their governors and ask that their physical safety be guaranteed as a condition for service.