[JURIST] Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, English version; BBC profile] on Wednesday signed a law that shortens the conscription term and wipes out five accepted reasons for military draft deferments. The law, passed [JURIST report] by both houses of parliament in June, reduces required military service from two years to one and a half starting in 2007, and then to one year in 2008. It abolishes five deferment reasons, however, including those for rural doctors and teachers and for people taking care of sick parents. The law also toughens the requirements for four other deferment reasons.
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 upper house of parliament [JURIST report] in February that 6,000 people were abused by Russian military personnel last year and that 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, while 256 committed suicide to avoid conscription [MosNews report]. AP has more.