Russia: Defence Ministry Offers Reform Blueprints to Cabinet

195 formations and units, total strength 176,500, will shift from conscription to contract manning in 2004-07, say blueprints which the Defence Ministry will offer to tomorrow's federal Cabinet session on the current military reform. Armed Forces privates and noncoms will account for 131,600 of the intended contract servicemen, while other militarised structures are to employ 44,900.

As the ministry sees it, units stationed in the turbulent North Caucasus will be the first to shift to contract arrangements as reform prerequisites are forming in other units. The North Caucasian military district is expected to fully shift to contract service by the end of 2005.

The shift will not start before all units have a proper material and technical infrastructure and a necessary number of new cantonments are available.

Permanent-readiness units will shift to contract service in 2004-07, and the number of contract servicemen will increase in other branches and services since 2008. The comprehensive programme will allow reducing the conscription service term to 18 or even 12 months.

There are two options for reform expenditures, say ministerial experts - 138.3 billion roubles if married persons account for 20% of contract soldiers, and 121.4 billion with 10%.

Reform implementation requires certain legal amendments. Thus, the ministry advises to establish a probation term for contract applicants, and increase servicemen's liabilities for contracts severed ahead of term. The acting legislation also has to be amended to put an end to servicewomen's rights limited for guarantees, privileges and compensations as envisaged by laws protecting the family and mothers' and children's welfare. Labour Code regulations of service time need to be specified. The ministry also demands educational privileges for contract soldiers. The Housing Code ought to stipulate soldiers evicted in case of contract severed through their own fault, say ministerial experts.

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