Third of Russian conscripts too sick to serve

20th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Nearly a third of Russia's latest batch of conscripts were too sick serve in the armed forces and ended up being sent back home, a top commander said Thursday.

The general added that more than 200,000 Russian teenage boys were also evading the draft because of the army's reputation for brutal hazing practices.

"We have been forced to release more than 30 percent of the young men from service because of their health," the joint staff's deputy commander Vasily Smirnov was quoted as saying by Interfax.

"Unfortunately, this figure has not been improving lately."

Moscow newspapers reported in September that the army only managed to draft 550,000 news soldiers last year, bringing its ranks to 750,000-850,000 troops -- short of the million-man army foreseen in planning.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev complained in 2009 that over 40 percent of those eligible for military service were not fit enough to serve and that draft dodging was becoming endemic.

Smirnov said he was "very concerned" about the number of draft dodgers, but provided no details of how the army planned to deal with the problem.

His comments came amid reports that 63 Russian soldiers had been hospitalised with pneumonia and another recruit had died while being stationed near the Ural region city of Chelyabinsk.

A general prosecutor's office statement the soldiers became ill due to their commanders' failure to "ensure the protection of the servicemen's life and health," Interfax reported.

The garrison's commanders have been charged with failing to isolate sick soldiers from other recruits as an epidemic swept through the region in late December and early January.

© 2011 AFP

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