[JURIST] The Russian Duma [official website], the lower house of parliament, on Wednesday voted 359-53 to pass a bill that will shorten the military conscription requirement from two years to one, beginning in January 2008. The bill is expected to gain approval from the Federation Council [official website], Russia's upper house, within the month and be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; BBC profile] shortly thereafter. Other provisions in the bill would eliminate military exemptions for rural doctors and teachers, fathers of children younger than 3, and those with handicapped or retired parents. Also on Wednesday, the Duma passed a companion bill that requires university students to complete the one-year service requirement after finishing their studies. Currently, students are exempt from service if they take military classes along with regular coursework.
Russia has received international criticism in recent months for fostering a culture of military abuse [JURIST report], exemplified by cases in which officers have been convicted of abuse of rank and degradation in an incident that cost a conscript his legs, and of contracting out conscripts for personal gain [JURIST reports]. Russia's chief military prosecutor told the Federation Council [JURIST report] in February that 6,000 people were abused by Russian military personnel last year and 2,600 soldiers were convicted of abusing other soldiers [JURIST report]. Some conscripts must be forcibly detained [HRW backgrounder] into service, and many avoid the military through bribes or fake doctor's certificates. The Russian Defense Ministry reported that 16 soldiers died of abuse in 2005 and 256 committed suicide to avoid conscription [MosNews report]. AFP has more.