Russia's military 'on verge of collapse'

Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has warned that the Russian armed forces are on the verge of collapse because people are avoiding the draft.

    Russian men must serve for at least two years in the army

    In televised remarks on Friday, Ivanov said 176,000 soldiers would be enlisted in the October-December draft season - less than 10% of the people eligible for the draft. 

    "By comparison I can say that just 10 years ago, in 1994, we called up 30% of all of those eligible. Now it is less than 10%. 

    "This really is a critical line and we cannot go any lower, otherwise we will simply lose our armed forces," Ivanov said at a military base in the central Russian town of Oryol. 

    Russian men must serve for at least two years in the armed forces some time between the ages of 18 and 27, depending on whether they attend university. 

    Fear of service

    But an embedded fear of service in a cash-strapped military, where morale is low and cases of brutal and often deadly hazing are on the rise, has spun a web of ways out of the draft - from false medical certificates to direct bribes. 

    Ivanov(R) said duty deferments
    are taking their toll on the army

    "We are the champions of the world when it comes to duty deferments," Ivanov quipped.

    One reason Russians fear the draft is Chechnya, where war has been waged nearly without interruption for the past decade, with the last campaign launched five years ago. 

    Several thousand armed fighters have been standing up against a Russian contingent of up to 80,000 soldiers.

    The war is now a deadly stalemate, with casualties - including civilians - reported on an almost daily basis. 

    Soldiers' rights committees have complained that Russian
    teenagers with only a few months training were being thrown into one of the deadliest war zones on earth. 

    Ivanov pledged none of the people called up this autumn season would be posted in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. 



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