Only contract soldiers will serve in conflict zones by 2005

The Russian Defence Ministry intends to stop sending conscript soldiers to serve in conflict zones by the end of 2004. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, Lieutenant-General Vasily Smirnov of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces announced yesterday that 'our main priority is to make sure conscript soldiers no longer have to serve in conflict zones. I think we will accomplish this aim by the end of next year.' He said the experiment in the 76th Pskov division to stop drafting conscript soldiers showed that 'people are willing to serve on a contractual basis.' He said he hopes that the entire division will be serving on a contractual basis by the end of 2003 and mentioned that contract soldiers currently account for 60% of the division.

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