[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]


Russian parliament debates bill providing for alternative military service

Associated Press, April 17, 2002

MOSCOW - Russia's lower house of parliament launched debate Wednesday on a law strengthening the constitutional provision of alternative service with guarantees that would remove conscientious objectors from legal limbo.

The legislators had three bills under consideration: a government-sponsored draft providing for a four-year commitment to alternative civilian service work, and two versions calling for terms of three and two and a half years, respectively. The bills before the lower house, or State Duma, are meant to stem widespread draft-dodging, which along with Russians' declining health has made it difficult for the military to fill the ranks of the nation's predominantly conscript army. But critics of the government version in particular say it would in effect punish conscientious objectors by forcing them to serve twice as long as military conscripts.

"The government's bill should better be described as a bill on punishment for draft evasion rather than a bill on alternative service," Sergei Ivanenko of the liberal Yabloko faction said Wednesday.

As in other countries, some of Russia's draft-dodgers are motivated by conscientious objection to violence. But many more are frightened of the vicious hazing and poor living conditions in the military, as well as the prospect of being sent to Chechnya, where demoralized Russian troops are bogged down in a guerrilla war with highly motivated rebels.

Over the past decade, some Russian courts have ruled in favor of conscientious objectors. But in the absence of a civilian service system, those who win such cases have simply not served at all. In other cases, local prosecutors have brought criminal charges against conscientious objectors.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday that passage of a law "will make it easier for military enlistment offices to deal with those who opt for alternative service, and will also discourage individual politicians from launching thoughtless experiments on people," the Interfax-Military News Agency reported.

He was apparently referring to liberal legislator Boris Nemtsov's call for conscripts to serve only six months in the army in order to cut down on hazing of junior servicemen by longer-serving soldiers. The current term for conscripts is two years.

See also:
The Russian Army

Associated Press, April 17, 2002

[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]