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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Russia to tighten military draft
Russian soldiers
The plan is to reduce military service to 12 months by 2008
The lower house of the Russian parliament has approved a bill to scrap five reasons men can use to defer their military service.

All men aged 18 and 27 must serve two years in the military but fewer than 10% do, taking advantage of a number of deferment options.

But the Duma scrapped reasons such as caring for elderly or sick parents amid concern at the numbers in the ranks.

Bullying and poor conditions have made conscription deeply unpopular.

Rural workers

The Duma's lower house voted by 359 to 53 to send the bill, which has sparked public criticism, to the upper house.

Five of the 25 deferment reasons have been scrapped and four modified.

Among those scrapped are for men whose wives are in the 26th week of pregnancy or beyond.

Men working as doctors and teachers in rural areas will also no longer be able to defer.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said fewer than 1,000 university graduates worked as rural teachers and doctors but that "dozens of thousands of people bring certificates".

He said the measures were necessary to "notably reduce the length of military service to 12 months by 2008".

Bullying, particularly of conscripts, is a major problem in the Russian army, correspondents say.

This year two conscripts in separate incidents lost both their legs after being beaten.

In February, President Vladimir Putin called for a special military police unit to be set up to curb military bullying.

Russian army 'sick and hungry'
13 Nov 03 |  Europe
Death rate high in Russian army
13 Sep 03 |  Europe


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