In a move to make army service more attractive for citizens and cut the number of conscription dodgers, the Russian government is considering additional benefits for army conscripts, including easier access to higher education in Russia and abroad, as well as to state civil sector jobs, Russian daily Izvestia reported on Tuesday.
The new measures would allow former conscripts to get free training for university entrance exams, while university graduates who have served in the army would be provided grants to continue their education in Russian and foreign business schools, a government source told Izvestia.
Former conscripts will also receive benefits when entering state civil service, including a better chance of being included in the presidential database of managerial human resources, the report said.
The government is expected to approve the measures by mid-September, two weeks before the start of the annual fall conscription period on October 1. Officials from the Russian Defense Ministry, along with the interior, finance, economic development and education ministries are involved in the initiative.
The government is also planning to introduce additional patriotic and sports training measures at public schools and to promote combat sports among young Russians.
Russia’s 1-million strong army relies largely on conscription. All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are obliged by law to perform one year of military service.
The image of military service in Russia has been seriously damaged by widespread hazing, corruption and frequent accidents involving conscripts, with several hundred non-combat deaths being registered every year. Many young Russians try to avoid military service by bribing doctors to forge medical certificates.
To improve the situation, the Russian authorities have moved to increase the number of professional servicemen, which currently stands at around 200,000. In line with government plans, professionals should account for 70 percent of army personnel by 2017.
Last year, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also signed a law raising the salaries of Russian service personnel, whose incomes over the past two decades have been meager despite length of service and rank increases. The salaries of Russian servicemen are still lower than in the leading NATO countries, but the increase has cut the gap significantly.