Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, June 01

© Alex StefflerRussian Press - Behind the Headlines
Russian Press - Behind the Headlines - Sputnik International
Putin Urged to Send Troops to Syria / Military Chiefs Crack Down on Draft Dodgers / Another Opposition Protest at Triumfalnaya Square


Putin Urged to Send Troops to Syria

CSTO Secretary General Bordyuzha said that the Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) could help settle the Syrian conflict under a UN Security Council mandate.

“Theoretically, the CSTO agreements and charter allow for using peacekeeping forces beyond CSTO borders, but only under a UN Security Council mandate. But the practical aspects of such an operation should be analyzed and coordinated with our international partners,” he said.

The idea of sending peacekeepers to Syria was proposed by Igor Yurgens, director of the Russian Institute of Contemporary Development. He says Russia has always had a balanced stance on Syria, but it is time to become more flexible.

“We should consider the Syrian conflict from a broader perspective. China and Russia expressed their attitudes at a certain point in the conflict, but now we are losing global public and political respect because our position hasn’t changed as this humanitarian catastrophe unfolds.”

Russia’s position on this issue is becoming weaker, Yurgens said. Moscow insists that Syria is a sovereign country, but the West sees it as willingness to sacrifice human rights to sovereignty.

The expert recalled the UN Responsibility to Protect initiative that says if a state cannot protect its citizens from crimes against humanity, genocide, etc., the international community may approve military intervention as a last resort.

“We should take a more flexible stance on Syria,” he said. “Let’s propose sending CSTO peacekeepers to Syria. The unit has 20,000 well trained and armed servicemen. Let’s send them to the assistance of Kofi Annan – at our expense.”

The CSTO agreement on the Collective Rapid Reaction Force only stipulates the right to disengage the conflicting sides, whereas “the task in Syria would most likely be to enforce peace, above all against the insurgents who are using weapons to resolve political problems,” Nikolai Bordyuzha said.

He added that this initiative might be attractive to politicians, but not for the boys who would be sent to Syria.

“Judging by reports, both sides are using heavy weaponry there,” the official said.

“I don’t think the West will accept this proposal,” military analyst Alexander Khramchikhin said. “The West does not recognize the CSTO as an independent organization, and besides, Russia’s leading role in such an operation would be unacceptable for the West. Even China might object.”

Khramchikhin said that it is unclear if the CSTO has the necessary combat ready group and is prepared to suffer human losses.

Sending CSTO troops to Syria is a new and acceptable idea, because the organization has trained peacekeepers, said Alexander Sharavin, director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.

“We could send at least one well-equipped division consisting of Russian, Kazakh and other servicemen,” he said.

In any case, the West is unlikely to approve the idea because it would call into doubt our peacekeepers’ neutrality, and they could even allege that the peacekeeping force was providing support for pro-government forces.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Military Chiefs Crack Down on Draft Dodgers

Russia’s Defense Ministry has worked out a plan to increase conscription rates that would include organizational, regulatory and propaganda moves. The effort will involve lobbyists and government officials who are former military.

The mobilization department of the General Staff has reiterated an initiative that its head, Vasily Smirnov, proposed two years ago, to raise the draft age ceiling from 27 to 30.

This idea was also recently voiced by Vasil Shaikhraziyev, the Mayor of Naberezhniye Chelny in Tatarstan, and the regional legislature is likely to support the proposal and submit a respective bill to the State Duma. Tatarstan has recently topped the Defense Ministry’s patriotic education contests. The region has the lowest number of draft dodgers in Russia. As a result of intensive promotion, local young men are eager to serve in the army while evaders suffer from a low public opinion.

Another idea, also proposed by Smirnov, has already been drafted into a bill aimed at amending the law on conscription. Young men of conscription age will be required to come in person to their local recruitment office to receive summons to conscription-related events. The bill, drafted by a group of upper house members who are former military chiefs, led by Viktor Ozerov who heads the upper house defense committee, will be considered later this month. Although it aroused a controversial public response, the Defense Ministry is quite confident that it will be adopted and that the conscription procedure will change dramatically.

The Defense Ministry is also drafting bills, jointly with other concerned agencies, aimed at raising the prestige of military service. An executive order Vladimir Putin signed on inauguration day calls for granting university admission privileges and other benefits to people who have completed their military service.

The benefits will include a system of grants for university graduates who have also completed their military service to domestic or foreign business schools, as well as preferences for those who wish to join the civil service, something never offered before.

The latter amendment provoked a passionate debate in the government, Defense Ministry sources say. The Ministry insisted on the original clause which says that only those individuals who have served in the army or navy, upon conscription or under contract, can join the civil service. Opponents proposed a milder option, to give these people “a preference in competitive appointment to a civil service post.”

Apart from that, the government will complement the planned incentives with unpopular policies prompted by the Defense Ministry.

Colonel Eduard Rodyukov, associate member of the Academy of Military Sciences, said that in 2012-2013, the number of universities with state accreditation will be reduced. This means that students of these universities will be drafted unless they have health problems that exempt them from military service. The same will happen with postgraduate students whose research is not of strategic importance to the state, he explained.

Moskovsky Komsomolets

Another Opposition Protest at Triumfalnaya Square

Another Strategy-31 opposition protest has taken place at Triumfalnaya Square. The scenario of the event has changed little over recent years. Riot police line up along the square where between 300 and 1,000 protesters converge at the appointed hour. After a while, Eduard Limonov, a writer and leader of The Other Russia, makes an appearance amidst the crowd. Following a brief scuffle, he is taken away in a police van. Against the background of a growing protest movement, Strategy has offered a new intrigue this time – will the Occupy movement join the other traditional protests?

“Look,” says a girl with a white ribbon in her hair to her companion, “Whenever Limonov is taken, he is always shouting and resisting; he looks so courageous and cute. That’s probably why he has a beautiful new woman every year.”

Limonov’s arrival at the square is awaited impatiently by his followers from The Other Russia and the media. He enthusiastically steps up to the pavement on Tverskaya Street, but then the police, dispersing his defenders, grab him and throw him into a paddy wagon sent specially for him.

By 6 p.m., in the rain, riot police and protesters, about equal in number, begin performing their traditional ritual as the police begin expelling people onto 2nd Brestskaya Street and from time to time announcing through loudspeakers: “Clear the sidewalk. You are interfering with pedestrian traffic.”

The event looked like a sluggish and somewhat uninteresting game, as police pushed people to the corner of Triumfalnaya Square and Brestskaya Street, and then pulled back, and as protesters retreated back to their starting place at Tverskaya Street. This scenario was repeated eight or ten times. Activists who shouted slogans or put up deliberate resistance were picked out of the crowd. This event included many people with children. According to unconfirmed information, the police detained a 12-year-old boy who was filming the event on his camera. The “detain everybody” command was issued after 9 p.m. 

The most remarkable feature of this rally was the new level of cooperation between protesters and the police. A man climbed onto the roof of a news kiosk to the applause of the crowd and unveiled a streamer with the inscription Strategy-31. Then a riot police officer climbed up. After looking over the square, he smiled, saluted and introduced himself. The audience chanted “Well done!” Then the officer half-embraced the protester, climbed down with him and took him to a police van.

There were few of the regular protest activists at the event, but there were some, and now we are in for a continuation of The Strategy, which unexpectedly joined the Occupy movement in its protest zeal. On the nights of May 31 and June 1, the opposition will meet at Triumfalnaya Square, where this migrating camp is now moving. The riot police will not be able to go home.

No fewer than 20 people were detained at Triumfalnaya Square.

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.


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