The Russian Armed Forces has eased its rules on recruiting foreign citizens into its ranks, according to amendments posted on the Defense Ministry website.
The worsening demographic situation and the reluctance of Russian nationals to serve have apparently driven the military to seek recruits among the ranks of the growing immigrant population.
According to the amended law, a citizen of any foreign country, aged 18-30, can now sign an initial 5-year contract to join the army.
Basic requirements are a good command of Russian and a clean criminal record. As an incentive to join, recruits are offered Russian citizenship after three years of service.
Experts believe that Russia is unlikely to succeed in attracting large numbers of foreign recruits given the reputation the Russian military has for harsh conditions, relatively low pay, corruption, and brutality within the ranks.
As of 2009, about 350 foreign citizens were serving in the Russian Armed Forces. Most were from CIS countries, whose citizens make up the bulk of Russia's immigrant population, but there was also a handful from Latvia, Germany, and Israel.
According to official sources, 699 foreigners applied to join the Russian military in the past year but most were rejected for having poor knowledge of Russian, health problems, or low levels of education.
In line with an ongoing military reform, the Russian Armed Forces will be downsized to 1 million personnel by 2016, with 150,000 officers and about 745,000 soldiers. The length of military service for draftees will remain unchanged at 1 year.
MOSCOW, November 25 (RIA Novosti)