The growing attention of non-governmental organizations and human rights activists to issues of military personnel policy

On 20 May, Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin chaired a round table discussion of the issues of human rights protection with regard to the following categories of Russian citizens: the citizens conscripted into the army and the citizens undergoing military service under contract; the military personnel of the RF Armed Forces and of the other units where military service is envisaged by the federal law; and the citizens dismissed from the armed forces and their families.

To think of it, the majority of this country’s citizens are to some or other extent concerned with these issues – either directly or though their relatives or friends… The event was attended by representatives of the RF Ministry of Defense, the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs (Internal service troops), the Federal Security Service (Frontier defense bodies), the General Prosecutor’s Office, the RF President’s Executive Office, the RF Government, the Council of the Federation, the State Duma, and human rights organizations. The largest group of participants represented the Union of the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers.

The discussion centered on the previously developed proposals for improving the legal and social protection of the aforesaid categories of RF citizens. In particular, some of the recommendations were elaborated and discussed last December at the IET during a meeting held there within the framework of “The Citizen and the Army Initiative”.

Among the participants, the greatest confidence – quite understandably – was displayed by representatives of the frontier defense bodies. They have completely canceled conscription, made service in their respective troops attractive, and rectified all the drawbacks in providing the servicemen and their families with the necessary essentials. It is noteworthy that in the August conflict in South Osetia our border guards also distinguished themselves in the line of duty.

The participants discussed the multi-paged list of recommendations which caused (quite naturally) many comments on the part of representatives of power structures. In fact, each of the recommendations was very specific and addressed directly their concerns. Now these comments are being considered, and the recommendations will be adjusted accordingly and then distributed among the relevant entities.

Can one hope for any success? When Head of the Main Administration for Education in the Armed Forces, A. Bashmakiv, reminded the round table participants that for the RF Army the goal had been set that it should become one of the “top five” modern armies of the world, he was asked to give more details about that group of armies but could not provide any satisfactory answer. So it remains to be hoped that our army will indeed acquire “a new image”, and that this image will indeed be worthy of its ambitions.

V. I. Tsymbal – Doctor of Technical Sciences, Head of the Department for Military Economics