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Russian Group Protests Obligatory Military Service

Young Russian men are required by law to serve in the army.

Young Russian men are required by law to serve in the army.

MOSCOW -- Ten opposition activists have staged a public protest in Moscow against mandatory military service, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The activists, who are members of the opposition Yabloko party, gathered in front of the Defense Ministry. They displayed a large banner asking "How many more must die to stop compulsory service?" and chanted "Down with mandatory service, yes to contract service!"

The activists told RFE/RL that the large number of suicides by young conscripts in Russia in the last several months motivated them to protest.

Police approached the activists shortly after the demonstration began and asked them to move the protest to Gogol Boulevard, which they did.

Under Russian law, all men between 18 and 27 years are required to serve 12 months in the army.

The activists tried to submit a petition addressed to Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov urging him to introduce changes in the law under which the country's armed forces would be manned exclusively on a contract basis. The ministry refused to accept the petition.