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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Rules As Spring Draft Starts

MTVladimir Abdulin smoking as his cousin Vladimir Yegorov looks on at the Timiryazevsky recruitment office Monday.
Ruslan Abdulin and Vladimir Yegorov stood outside the entrance to the Timiryazevsky recruitment office in northern Moscow chatting with a couple girls as surly-looking draftees filed in and out of the building.

Abdulin, 20, has a draft deferment while his cousin Yegorov, 17, will have to serve.

"I want to serve, but at the same time I fear hazing," said Yegorov, despite the fact that he is an amateur boxer with a tall, athletic figure.

Yegorov, along with tens of thousands of other young men who showed up for the first day of the spring recruitment campaign Monday, will be in the first batch of servicemen to serve 18 months instead of two years. The reduced military service is part of a gradual transition to a one-year service, which begins Jan. 1.

Two-year compulsory military service dates back to a 1967 Soviet law and was later established under Russian law in 1993.

Several draftees outside recruitment offices Monday welcomed the reduced stint, but they expressed concern over retribution by resentful elder conscripts.

"It would have been much better if the length of service was reduced for everybody at once: those who are already serving and new conscripts," said Pyotr Kesler, 18. "That way everybody would have equal rights and no one would have been offended."

Soldiers' rights activists echoed the recruits' concerns over possible increases in hazing, saying the reduced mandatory service was a double-edged sword.

"On the one hand, it's good for young boys to return home earlier. On the other hand ... those who serve longer will be very offended," said Tatyana Kuznetsova, head of the Soldiers' Mothers movement.

Abdulin and Yegorov, the cousins, were pessimistic about the current state of the armed forces, although neither said they opposed military duty.

The recruitment office wanted to send Yegorov to the presidential regiment, an elite unit that takes part in presidential ceremonies. But he asked for the paratroopers division, which he said he had long dreamed of joining.

Abdulin said he would defend the country if there were a war, but he saw no sense in "compulsory slavery" -- even if it were for a reduced 18 months.

"The basics of military activities could be learned in three months during compulsory military exercises," Abdulin said, adding that he had a deferment because he had a wife and 2-year-old child.

Some 134,000 conscripts will be drafted over the next three months, Channel One television reported.