Yesterday, the State Duma passed in first reading the bill About Alternative Civil Service, introduced by the government, while two alternative bills introduced to the Duma by a group of parliamentarians with Yury Rybakov at the head and Vladimir Semenov, deputy from Union of Right-wing Forces, were declined by deputies. The main differences between the three bills are connected with the length of the alternative service and with the question if a conscript must prove his right to an alternative civil service and how he must do it. The document introduced by the government was presented by minister of labour and social development, Alexandr Poschinok. According to ITAR-TASS, 245 deputies voted for the governmental bill. It was supported by Unity faction, Fatherland – All Russia faction, Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, and People’s Deputy and Regions of Russia groups. Union of Right-wing Forces and Apple factions spoke in support of it. While Communists and Agrarians voted against all variants of the bill. According to the government’s bill passed by the Duma, the time of an alternative civil service must be two times more than of the military one – 4 years (the group of deputies proposed 3 years, while deputy Semenov – 2.5 years). Persons with higher education could serve 2 years. Moreover, according to this document, the conscript must prove his right to an alternative civil service (and he easily could be turned down). In particular, the right on alternative service could be given to representatives of aboriginal small nationalities, if military service conflicts with his persuasions or religion. To organize alternative civil service, the government proposes to create special federal executive bodies. “Civil conscripts” could do their civil duty in some works, in social, medical and educational institutions, in fire-brigades and rescue services, in some organizations of Russian Armed Forces or in that ones dependent on the executive bodies. According to Pochinok, the governmental variant is still a compromise, and it has been considered for 9 years. “Most of questions are connected with the proof,” – Pochinok said. – Though, you should admit it, that, on one hand, it would be rough and incorrect to make a young man bring some certificate… While, on the other hand, we should not deprive enlistment office of its right to tern down conscripts. For, it is a very possible situation, when a person who is not a pacifist at all comes and says: I want to be at an alternative civil service.” The governmental bill was the most strict. Finally, it was passed by the Duma in its first reading. In principle, this should have been expected. In such conditions, when Russian Army is not fully completed, the government’s initiative which was finally supported by deputies could be understood. Moreover, this bill had been supported by high Russian functionaries, this also should be taken into account. It should be noticed, that Russian Defence Ministry took an active part in working out this bill. According to minister Sergei Ivanov, the time of alternative civil service – in accord with “thorough calculation of the full employment of the conscripts” who are in military service round the clock and who do not have weekends – must make 6 years, though “it is clear to everybody that it is impossible.” This was why the time of alternative civil service was shortened to 4 years. It should be reminded, that initially the bill About Alternative Civil Service in RF” was worked out by the Defence Ministry and in February it was introduced to the government. At that time, the government considered it to be too drastic and sent it to revision. Afterwards, pubic, Finance Ministry, Justice Ministry, Emergency Ministry, specialists of the President State and Legal Office, and, finally, the Duma deputies were engaged in it. Amendments were introduced at the sittings of Prime-Ministers Ilya Klebanov and Valentina Matvienko. The opponents of the Defence Ministry’s position, from liberals and native human rights activists could not be calmed. And it is clear, why. Today, when the Armed Forces are not fully completed, if a rather loyal bill appears, all conscripts being afraid of unofficial relations with cruel servants of second year, so-called “grandfathers,” and not possessing robust health will rush to civil service. Such evolution also should be taken into account. In general, could the Defence Ministry’s position be called “extreme,” if they must think not about a new variant of military service, but about a principle alternative of this same service? Now discussions are over. The government’s bill made up on the base of the Defence Ministry document, clearly determines mechanisms of cooperation between the state and conscripts.
Sergei Yugov PRAVDA.Ru Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/04/17/39899.html