The Russian military is set to expand a training program for university students to provide an alternative to the country’s mandatory draft for young men, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said Monday.
According to Pankov, male students will be able to opt out of the draft by completing 450 classroom hours of military studies over two years during their degree, and by attending a three-month training course before entering the reserves as a soldier or sergeant.
A similar program has been in place at the country’s 72 state universities with military departments since 2008, but the vast majority of male university students attend institutes that do not allow them to fulfill their service obligation during their studies.
University students can delay service while actively enrolled, but after graduating more than 60,000 young men are called up annually to perform their year of mandatory service.
Pankov said Tuesday that the program would also be made available to students enrolled at private colleges and universities.
The country has struggled in recent years to fulfill its target quotas for incoming conscripts due to widespread draft dodging and the scarcity of young men coming of age who were born when the birth rate collapsed during the turbulent 1990s.
“The Ministry of Defense is making a big step to accommodate young men. Most importantly we are creating favorable conditions for fulfilling military service. Though it is more difficult for us than simply tracking down the draft dodgers,” Pankov said Tuesday.
The development of the new form of military training will begin this year, with the first students expected to begin studies by fall 2015.
More than 244,000 men eligible for the draft managed to avoid being conscripted last year, according to General Staff statistics.
According to Pankov , work will also be continued to establish scientific squads. Now there are four of them, two of which have been working for almost a year. “By the end of this year there will be about 10 scientific squads, including a medical one,” said Secretary of State, who was quoted by ITAR-TASS. He said that medical scientific squad will be formed this spring. It is also planned to create a scientific squad of liberal arts.
Earlier media reports indicated that whose who want to take part in scientific squads would pass a serious competition because up to 60 people are planned to be chosen. In addition to desire, recruits need to meet certain requirements: be a member of the scientific Olympiads, wright scientific papers and have specific knowledge and skills.
Nikolai Pankov also touched upon the formation and functioning of sports squads. He noted that dozens of young people from such squads entered the Russian Olympic team and today represent the country at the Olympic Games in Sochi.
The national team includes 33 soldiers, 27 athletes are civilian personnel of the Defense Ministry. 28 soldiers are draftees in sports squads. Among them is the skater Dmitry Solovyov, biathlete Alexander Loginov, snowboarder Nicholai Olyunin and others.