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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian State Duma Passes Third and Final Version of Law Enabling Draftees to Serve in Armed Combat Abroad
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The State Duma or lower house of the Russian parliament passed in the third and final reading today a law enabling military servicemen, including draftees, to sign short-term contracts, RBC reported, citing Interfax.

The law was introduced last month as we reported. 

The measure was taken due to "a change in the military political situation," the authors of the law said in accompanying explanations for the initiative. This was likely a reference to the war in Syria, as a number of commentators in Russia have pointed out.

Such contracts "enable rapid resolution of short-term but important tasks related to participation in peace-keeping operations and the battle against terrorist and extremist organizations," said the explanation.

Both soldiers in the reserves and draftees with the rank of soldier, sailor or sergeant would be eligible to sign such contracts for two to three years. Those with the rank of ensign, midshipman or officer may sign contracts up to five years. Certain categories of servicemen may also sign contracts from six months to one year.

The new law makes it possible for new recruits, who previously were not sent to fight abroad, to sign contracts as they approach the end of their draft term. 

The law doesn't address the issue of mercenaries and private military contractors which are still banned in Russia. There is a move to legalize them although efforts to propose draft laws have so far failed in the Duma. Such mercenaries already exist, however, as we have seen with the coverage of PMC Wagner, a private military contractor whose leader was recently given an award for heroism in combat.

The law now goes to the Federation Council for a vote that will likely pass, then to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into a law.

The intiaitive comes as Russian state TV confirms for the first time that Russian special forces are fighting on the ground in Syria. 

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick