Alternative service becoming a reality

The State Duma, which is the Russian Parliament's lower house, passed the alternative-service bill in the third and final reading here today.

This document stipulates 3.5-year alternative service.

According to its provisions, any person can apply for alternative service, if army service runs counter to his convictions or religious beliefs. Conscripts belonging to small ethnic groups, which lead a traditional life-style, shall also be able to exercise this right.

However, local draft boards can deny this right to conscripts, unless their arguments sound convincing enough.

The bill states expressly that Russian conscripts shall have the right to do alternative service at the place of their residence. Individual alternative service, as well as that with groups and formations, is also possible. This bill, which shall be enacted January 1, 2004, has now been sent to the Parliament's upper house, i.e. the Federation Council, for subsequent examination.

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