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Words in the News
 
Wednesday 23 July 2003
 
Russia: civil instead of military service
 
Putin The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has signed a decree on the organisation of civil service as an alternative to military service. The right to alternative service was decided almost ten years ago but parliament passed a law to this effect only last year. This report from Stephen Dalziel.
 
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Article fifty nine, paragraph three, of the Russian Constitution makes it clear that if military service is contrary to a citizen's beliefs, he can opt for alternative, civil service. But ever since the Constitution was adopted in 1993, this right has existed more in theory than in practice. The Mayor of Nizhny Novgorod, Yury Lebedev, set up a system at the start of last year whereby would-be conscripts could work as orderlies in local hospitals. After just a few months, federal authorities - under pressure from the army - stopped the scheme. The law, which was passed over a year ago, but which comes into effect only on the first of January two thousand and four, will do little to convince Russians that performing alternative service will be preferable to simply dodging the draft into the army. Instead of two years military service, civil service will last for three and a half years. Instead of being allowed to serve close to home, alternative service will be carried out far away, and possibly on a military base. Such civil conscripts could well be subjected to the kind of bullying which may have helped persuade them to avoid the army in the first place.

BBC, Stephen Dalziel
 
 
Listen Listen to the words
 
contrary to a citizen’s beliefs
 
differently to what a person strongly believes to be right
 
opt for
 
choose
 
more in theory than in practice
 
more as an idea than as something that actually happens
 
would-be
 
potential, possible
 
conscripts
 
people who are legally obliged to join the army
 
orderlies
 
junior assistants (usually in hospitals)
 
will do little to
 
will not help to
 
dodging the draft
 
avoiding military service
 
be subjected to
 
have to endure, experience
 
bullying
 
hurting and intimidating people
 
 
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