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1 Apr, 2008 00:25

Army time cut to one year

April Fool’s Day is no joke for many young men in Russia. Across the whole country they are signing up for the army as the spring draft begins. But they do have it easier than previous draftees.

Head of conscription, Vasily Smirnov, says the changes will be music to the ears of new recruits.

“For the first time in Russia's history, we’re switching to a one-year term of military service. This, along with measures to improve soldiers' living conditions, will improve the army's effectiveness,” Smirnov said.

Meanwhile, Russia's military has been in the spotlight in recent years, with stories of hazing and abuse of conscripts by their superiors.

It's widely accepted that many young men attempt to dodge the draft. They sometimes pay thousands of dollars in bribes to doctors or military officials to gain an exemption, prompting army chiefs to complain that the bulk of the military is made up of drug addicts, ex-convicts and men of lower intelligence, reducing its effectiveness and crushing morale.

But generals hope this year's shorter service will encourage more young men to join willingly. Defence Ministry official, Valery Zhulenko, says time will tell how effective the new regulations are.

“By the end of the draft we'll be able to monitor how appealing the one-year service is for conscripts. We hope this shorter stint will attract more highly-educated boys, as one year is not so daunting,” Zhulenko said.