AP: Hundreds in Moscow protest draft
- Hundreds in Moscow protest draft
Saturday, April 1st, 2006
MOSCOW (AP) - Hundreds protested in central Moscow on Saturday against
the draft, calling for an end to mandatory military service and
criticizing plans to cut deferments as the Russian armed forces began
their spring conscription campaign.
The demonstration, part of a nationwide campaign led by opposition
politicians and anti-draft activists, drew about 300 people to Pushkin
Square. Many chanted slogans or held posters saying "the Army is
Slavery" or "Draft: No," and some called for the resignation of
President Vladimir Putin and the defense minister.
Ekho Moskvy radio reported that similar protests were held in some 30
other Russian cities.
The government is preparing to scrap a series of deferments - a decision
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says is necessary to fulfill plans to
reduce the term of mandatory service from two years to one.
The protest also came amid public dismay over a horrific case that
highlighted the persistent problem of abuse in the military - the hazing
of an 18-year-old private over the New Year that resulted in the
amputation of his legs and genitals.
For the spring draft, the ITAR-Tass news agency said the military plans
to conscript nearly 125,000 young men - 9.7 percent of those ranging in
age from 18 to 27.
All Russian men in that age group are theoretically required to serve in
the 1.2 million-member military, but fewer than 10 percent are normally
drafted, while many dodge service by signing up for college, being
excused for health reasons - often falsified - or simply paying bribes.
Some Kremlin critics want mandatory service to be eliminated altogether,
citing poor conditions in the underfunded military and rampant bullying
of young conscripts by older soldiers.