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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
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contrary to a citizen’s beliefs
differently to what a person strongly believes to be right
opt for
more in theory than in practice
more as an idea than as something that actually happens
potential, possible
people who are legally obliged to join the army
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
hurting and intimidating people
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