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Russia faces shortage of conscripts this year: report

Russia’s army faces a 15-25 percent shortage of conscripts this year, a newspaper report said Monday, leaving the military understaffed in the midst of a government reform drive.

Less than 550,000 men will be drafted into the army this year, bringing its ranks to 750,000-850,000 troops — short of the million-man army foreseen in planning, the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported, citing official estimates.

The officer in charge of the army draft, Colonel Alexei Knyazev, told the paper some 133,000 young men were evading the draft.

In an attempt to boost the poor numbers, the military has already begun calling up conscripts, although the Kremlin has not yet announced the start of the fall draft period, the paper said.

Last year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev complained that over 40 percent of those eligible for military service were not fit enough, and draft dodging is widespread across the country today.

All Russian men aged 18 to 27 are required to serve one year in the military.

In practice however, men go to great length to avoid the grueling year of service by exploiting deferments, enrolling in university and sometimes purposefully failing the physical exam.

Often, the exemptions are facilitated by bribes.

Russia has begun to implement sweeping plans to modernize its ailing army by slashing a bloated officer corps and reforming its Soviet-style command structure.

But under the plans, three out of four servicemen would still be conscripts, Medvedev said.