Public Chamber is going to tighten civilian control over the armed forces

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On March 18, the Commission of the Public Chamber for affairs of veterans, servicemen and members of their families headed by Alexander Kanshin organized a conference in the Military University of the Defense Ministry with participation of human rights organizations, officers of the Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry and Main Military Prosecutor’s Office. The topic was very important, namely reasons for deaths and traumas and problems of social protection in Russian army and other troops. Many interesting facts were mentioned.

Information:

The commission of the Public Chamber for affairs of veterans, servicemen and members of their families was established on January 23 of 2008. Its head is Alexander Kanshin, Chair of the Board of Directors of the national Association of Unions of Officers of the Reserve of the Armed Forces (MEGAPIR). MEGAPIR was established in 1993. Now it includes dozens of economic, charity and public associations.

We offer the main points of the speech of Kanshin during this event:

1. The quantity of non-combat casualties and suicides among young servicemen (224 suicides in 2007) remains high in the Armed Forces. The quantity of incidents and crimes remains high too (16,899 in 2007).

The condition of health of the draftees keeps growing worse. Over the last year, the share of draftees with weak health grew from 12% to slightly more than 14%. One-tenth of draftees come to the army underweight.

This circumstance shows that work on the provision of protection of life and health of servicemen, first of all, those in conscript service, needs serious activation and new approaches.

2. Transition to one-year conscript service by itself is not a panacea for the problems connected with non-combat casualties and other issues of protection of life and health of servicemen. Moreover, reduction of the service term will definitely result in an increase of training, combat and service load on the personnel. In turn, this will increase the moral, psychological and physical load on young servicemen.

3. The current situation in the preparation of youths for military service before the draft is unsatisfactory. Not a single one of the main institutions for the upbringing of young generation – family, school, higher educational institutions – do systematic preparation for service in the Armed Forces.

Along with this, a steady negative opinion about conscript service as about a fate of social outsiders dangerous for life and health was established among the youths in the last 15 years.

4. In these circumstances, the problem of the participation of society in pre-draft preparation including the moral and psychological one grows increasingly important.

5. The growing activeness of civilian society in this field is one of the main lines of activities of the commission for affairs of veterans, servicemen and members of their families organized in the Public Chamber on January 23.

6. For the purpose of working out certain lines of this work, the commission with the participation of MEGAPIR takes a number of measures in the federal center and in the provinces. Work of the military section “Army and society” was organized in January in the framework of the all-Russian civilian forum.

A roundtable meeting was held at the beginning of February under the aegis of the commission with participation of representatives of security agencies and broad public in Volgograd. Issues of pre-draft preparation of youth were the main topics of the meeting.

On March 4, the commission conducted public hearings in Kaluga dedicated to the role of the family and society in the preparation of youth for military service.

7. One of the first steps is the publication of information about non-combat casualties in all security agencies where conscript servicemen serve. The Defense Ministry has been publishing such data on its official website for many years. Other security agencies are obliged to follow its example.

8. The commission considers civil control over the process of the implementation of social policy of the state applied to veterans, servicemen and members of their families to be an equally important line of its activities.

This is applicable to the social measures to be taken by the state in the framework of the Year of Family announced in Russia, as well as national projects “Affordable housing” and “Health” that will be henceforth applied to the Armed Forces.

In 2008 the commission is going to pay special attention to the new mass category of predominantly young servicemen, namely soldiers and sergeants serving under contract.

The quality of housing supplied to contract servicemen, the employment of their wives and the compliance of social infrastructure of military camps to needs of the modern family are the factors on which success in the efficient transfer of the major part of the Armed Forces to contract manning depends.

9. One of the most important points for the application of public efforts is increase of prestige of the military service. It is insufficient to increase the salaries of servicemen, to give apartments to them on time, to repair them and to install television sets in them for the recruitment of adequate people for contract service and for the improvement of the attitude of conscripts to military service. It is also necessary to reanimate the notion about military service as a high serving and as a business of real men in the consciousness of Russians.

10. Officers of the reserve can make a significant contribution to the fulfillment of this task. In the last 15 years, many of them managed to achieve great success in business and in politics.

Among these people there are many individuals who already spent money, forces and time for free on the support of veterans, military patriotic upbringing, patronage over military units etc. MEGAPIR is a good example. The joint plans of the commission and MEGAPIR include the organization of an all-Russian meeting of officers of the reserve in 2008 with possible election of the collective body uniting the best representatives of Russian officers for the purpose of working out of certain measures for participation in solving of socially important problems of the Armed Forces.

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