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St. Petersburg Activists Demand Alternative Service

A similar protest was held in Moscow on September 27.
ST. PETERSBURG -- The nongovernmental organization Soldiers' Mothers of Petersburg held a rally in St. Petersburg demanding the introduction of alternative civil service for young conscripts, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The September 30 demonstration was held on the eve of the beginning of the Defense Ministry's fall draft into the military.

Soldiers' Mothers of Petersburg Chairwoman Ella Polyakova told RFE/RL that conditions in the military units located in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast are worsening. She said young soldiers are not only abused and mistreated in those units, but there are also cases when the victims of bullying are put in psychiatric clinics and given injections against their will.

The activists say alternative civil service -- as is offered in several European countries where mandatory military service still exists -- would be a solution for young people who, according to law, have to serve in the Russian Army for two years after reaching the age of 18.