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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 19:07 GMT
Russian army to ban gays
Russian soldier wounded in Chechnya
Many conscript fear they will be sent to fight in Chechnya
Russia is to introduce new regulations which will ban homosexuals, drug addicts and alcoholics from serving in the armed forces.

The new rules - published in the official Rossiyskaya Gazeta - say people "who have problems with their identity and sexual preferences" can only be drafted during war times.

The ban - taking effect on 1 July - also extends to those who regularly use illegal drugs and alcohol.

Officials say the changes are aimed at tightening health requirements for conscripts - even though they come at a time when the Russian military is believed to be struggling to fill its ranks.

Draft-dodging

Each year, thousands of young Russian men avoid the call-up, because of miserable conditions in the army and fears of being sent to fight in Chechnya.

Many obtain exemptions for higher education, are declared unfit to serve or pay bribes to officials.

The Russian million-strong army is made mainly of conscripts - although all men aged 18 to 27 are eligible, fewer than half actually serve.

President Vladimir Putin has been trying to kick-start the army reform by attempting to end the conscription and gradually introducing model units of professional soldiers.

Last year, a first fully professional unit was formed as part of an experiment.

But the generals have been dragging their feet, arguing that Russia did not have the necessary funds to switch from a free conscript army to an expensive, professional force.


SEE ALSO:
Putin approves military opt-out
28 Jul 02 |  Europe
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05 Mar 03 |  Europe
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08 Mar 03 |  Europe


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