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26 Oct, 2009 08:31

Recruitment troubles for Russian army

Autumn is the time of year that Russian conscripts are drafted into the army to serve their compulsory year-long service. However, many of them just aren't fit to serve.

Dmitry Butkin is a young man who is both willing and able to serve in the Russian Army. This makes him different from a lot of his countrymen.

This winter, more than 200,000 new recruits will have to start a compulsory year’s service in the military.

Nevertheless, a third of all young men who've been called up are deemed not fit for service. And due to the low birthrates just after the fall of the Soviet Union, the current generation of young adults is a small one.

“There are fewer and fewer healthy people available,” Valentina Melnikova, Head of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee explained.

“But to make up the numbers, people with grave illnesses, such as severe asthma and stomach ulcers, are being roped in.”

The army's reputation for hazing and bullying also makes it more difficult to fill the ranks. More than 200 soldiers committed suicide in the army last year. This is twice as many as in the US military, which is larger than the Russian one.

But army officials say the reduction of the service term from 18 months to 12 has made the army a more attractive option.

“The number of those who tried to dodge the draft has fallen considerably since the change, and I feel the image of our army in society is improving,” Col. Anatoly Tchaykovsky, a District Chief Enlistment Officer told RT.

Dmitry’s military service is about to start, with him having taken his oath and being approved for duty. Soon, he will be assigned to a regiment somewhere in Russia.

“I've decided to do my military service now, to get it out of the way, but I don't have any strong feelings [about it], and I don't know what to expect,” the new recruit confessed.

Military experts say only the creation of more well-paid professional units and a smaller army will solve the recruitment troubles. But until then, the Russian military faces a struggle to get enough good men.