AN ALTERNATIVE CIVILIAN SERVICE HAS SAT ON TWO CHAIRS

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decree No. 793 on the issues of organization of an alternative civilian service on July 21. Rossiiskaya Gazeta noted on July 23 that government has been preparing this document since December 2002. At the same time, society and deputies did not know anything about the decree because they awaited a government decree on the order of doing an alternative civilian service. As is known, the law on the alternative civilian service did not appoint an executive body, which would organize alternative service. Everyone thought that this would be the Labor Ministry, which prepared provisions on the alternative civilian service. However, the president has passed over this function to the Labor Ministry and the Defense Ministry. In other words, supporters of democracy have another occasion to complain that the government is militarizing society instead of creating civil society. As is known, the law on an alternative civilian service was born in throes. As a result, the final version does not almost differ from what the General Staff proposed. Russia broke all records regarding the duration of an alternative service. There are no nations where an alternative civilian service lasts for 3.5 years.

The president tried to divide the functions of the Defense Ministry and the Labor Ministry by his decree. The Defense Ministry will be in charge of registering recruits, including volunteers who choose an alternative service. Military registration and enlistment offices will send volunteers to regions and enterprises. From this moment volunteers are controlled by the Labor Ministry. Representatives of the General Staff told WPS that the government must issue a document, which will regulate cooperation between the ministries so that no volunteer will be lost. In addition, the government will pass a decree, which will regulate the Labor Ministry’s activities. As is known, the president’s decree has made amendments to the Provisions on the Defense Ministry and the Provisions on the General Staff concerning organization of alternative service.

The decree will come into force on January 1, 2004. Meanwhile, volunteers will only be able to choose an alternative service starting from autumn 2004 because according to the law on an alternative civilian service passed on June 28, 2002 volunteers must submit applications a half a year before the beginning of the call-up.

It should be noted that volunteers will have to convince call-up commissions that their views or beliefs do not let them join the Army. According to the law, if a citizen’s religion conflicts with military service or if a citizen represents a small ethnic group he ha the right to choose an alternative civilian service. Volunteers will do an alternative service on the basis of an ex-territorial principle. In addition, volunteers can be sent to the security structures as civilian personnel. Experts of the Russian Defense Ministry say that the law on an alternative civilian service will not increase the number of volunteers, who do not want to join the Army. Specialists say that the quantity of such people will amount to 3,000 to 20,000 people (this spring over 175,000 people were called up to the Army).

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