| The State Duma on Friday overwhelmingly passed in the
first reading amendments to a law that would restore the Soviet tradition
of mandatory military training in schools in an effort to raise the prestige
of the military.
The vote was 338-42. Only two liberal parties, Yabloko and the Union
of Right Forces, opposed the law, which must go through two more readings
before it is passed.
President Vladimir Putin said at the Kremlin a week ago during a meeting
with teachers that such training "is not bad, it's necessary and
He also acknowledged that such training alone is unlikely to make military
service attractive to young people. Russia still has a draft, but student
deferments are available, and many young people evade service by paying
Plunging morale and other signs of collapse have continued to tarnish
the armed forces.
A decommissioned nuclear submarine being towed toward shore sank and
killed nine crew members in August, almost exactly three years after the
Kursk sank in the same waters, killing all 118 on board.
The air force's spate of disasters included three crashes in one day
The Interfax-AVN military news agency recently quoted General Nikolai
Reznik, a senior military official, as saying the armed forces were searching
for 1,800 deserters. Reznik said many recruits were "in poor health
and poorly educated," undermining discipline.
On Wednesday, in the most recent display of morale problems, discharged
army officers from Smolensk began a march to Moscow to demand better housing.
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Reform in education