Last week Duma deputies considered several amendments to the federal law on universal military service connected with an expansion of the list of occupational deferments. For instance, the Kaluga legislative assembly proposed the Duma to grant occupational deferments to workers of private defense enterprises. Some Duma deputies proposed to grant deferments to persons who have children over three years old.

Both amendments were rejected. However, regular discussions of such issues in the Duma show that society is concerned about the call-up situation in Russia. Meanwhile, this does not frighten the executive branch. For instance, the government sent a letter to the Duma last week according to which it is inadvisable to expand the circle of persons enjoying occupational deferments.

Judging from the letter, “Call-up campaigns face more and more difficulties every year. Share of citizens, who can be called up to the Army, amounted to 11.2% of the total number of potential recruits in 2002.”

In the meantime, the Interior Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry have initiated a new system of occupational deferments. Some media note that despite Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov’s absence (he inspected military units stationed in the Trans-Volga and Ural regions) the Kremlin is studying a letter in which the defense minister reproached the leadership of the Interior Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry for sending young people, who do not have occupational deferments, to police units and fire-brigades. He noted in the letter that such initiatives conflict with the federal law on universal military service. According to this law, recruits sent by military registration and enlistment offices to the Interior Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry can only serve in the Interior Troops and civil defense units, not in police or fire brigades. The minister said that many such incidents have been registered in Moscow and the Moscow region. At present around 3,000 citizens, who have not served in the Army and do not have occupational deferments, work in the Interior Ministry’s bodies and structures of the Emergencies Ministry. This is equal to two Interior Troops regiments.

This is an old problem. Vladimir Pronin, chief of the Moscow Central Police Department, proposed in August 2001 to send young recruits to Moscow police units. Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov seconded him. He wrote a letter to the president with this request. However, Vladimir Putin did not agree with the initiative, and the General Staff gave an order to add all policemen and firemen (700 people) to the quota of recruits, whom military registration and enlistment offices had to send to the Interior Troops. As a result, the Interior Troops “lost” two battalions.

The General Staff’s order stirred up the leadership of the Interior Troops. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, Commander-in-Chief of the Interior Troops, raised this problem at the collegium of the Interior Ministry. Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, whom the defense minister asked not to send recruits to police units, promised not to do this again. Time has passed, everyone has forgotten that incident, and fire brigades have been passed over to the Emergencies Ministry. As is known, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu did not promise anything to the defense minister.

Anyway, The Interior Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry again sent around 3,000 recruits to Moscow police units and fire brigades in late 2002. The General Staff was outraged by this decision. The point is that the Interior Troops and civil defense units will not receive enough recruits. The position of the General Staff is as follows: you can take as many recruits as you please, and we will cut numbers of recruits sent to the Interior Troops and civil defense units.

In other words, a war between the security structures has resumed. The president has not yet expressed his opinion regarding this problem. However, it is evident that he will support the General Staff. It is also evident that not all officials of the Moscow city administration support Pronin’s initiative. For instance, Nikolai Kulikov, chief of the department for cooperation with the security structures of the Moscow city administration, has opposed this idea. He acknowledged that the Moscow Police department lacks 9,000 junior policemen. Meanwhile, he thinks that the MPD must find another solution to this problem. For instance, the MPD signed contracts with soldiers of an Interior Troops division stationed in the Moscow region.

Nikolai Kulikov said: “Of course, it is easier to recruit Muscovites to police units and fire-brigades. The city administration does not have to give them housing. However, the performance of such policemen is very low – they have no experience.”

Lieutenant-General Vasily Smirnov, Chief of the Central Mobilization-Organizational Department of the General Staff, adds that the problem is such that the legislation is imperfect. This is why the General Staff, the government, and other security structures are working on a range of proposals aimed at convincing the Duma to make amendments to laws, which regulate the order of recruiting citizens to police units and fire-brigades.