Major-General Victor Kozhushko, chief of the recruitment service of the Central Mobilization Department of the General Staff, recently stated that Defense Minister set the order to an alternative service. According to him, requirements to organization of an alternative service and registration of people who choose an alternative service are indicated in a directive issued by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on November 5, 2003.

Kozhushko said: “We were forced to do this because the government has failed to pass laws, which would regulate the order of an alternative service.” He noted that the government considers three documents, which must regulate this process.

From the point of view of civil society, it’s not at all a democratic move when the Defense Ministry issues a directive regarding an alternative service in Russia. It should be noted that the defense minister and the General Staff have repeatedly stated that this is a purely civil law, and they have nothing to do with its functioning. Meanwhile, this is not true. Call-up commissions of military registration and enlistment offices register volunteers, who prefer to choose an alternative service. As is known, call-up commissions are controlled by the General Staff. All young men will have to obey the directive issued by the defense minister. Victor Kozhushko stated that “this is a temporary directive, which will remain valid until the government passes corresponding bills”. He said that the document was issues in order to be able to inform the Labor Ministry about the quantity of volunteers. According to the law on alternative service, volunteers will be divided into two categories. Citizens who do not want to work in the security structures will have serve during 42 months; volunteers who will work in the security structures will serve during 36 months. The duration of an alternative service for people with higher education will be halved.

Young people will only be able to use their constitutional right starting from next autumn despite the fact that the law on alternative service comes into force on January 1, 2004.

Kozhushko noted: “The point is that volunteers must submit applications to choose an alternative service a half a year before the next call-up – in other words, before April 1, 2004.” The General Staff reports that 3,00 to 20,000 citizens a year will choose an alternative service.

In other words, the defense minister has done what civil structures should have done – he has determined the mechanism of realization of the law on alternative service by his directive. Society’s attitude to his decision is ambiguous. In addition, the law on alternative service is rather conservative and ant-social.

It should be noted that potential recruits must convince call-up commissions that they cannot serve in the army. Right-wing factions in the Duma state that the law on alternative service must be modernized.

In the meantime, generals fear that the quantity of volunteers will go up if the Duma passes amendments submitted by Union of Right Forces (the faction demands that the duration of an alternative service be reduced). The General Staff forecasts that the quantity of volunteers will exceed to 100,000 people is the Duma makes amendments to the law. In addition, the General Staff is concerned about the fact that deputies are trying to make amendments to the law before is has come into force.

Victor Kozhushko told WPS: “At first the law must start working – this will show its advantages and drawbacks. After that we will change something.”

In other words, the law on alternative service has already become an apple of discord. It is evident that realization of this law depends on the Defense Ministry and the government. It’s no good that the military intervenes in the process. In the meantime, the Labor Ministry hinders the process of passing the necessary documents. This is why the Defense Ministry has taken over the initiative by issuing a corresponding directive.