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More than half of Russians unfit to serve in army: general

MOSCOW, Nov 29 (AFP)
More than half of young Russian men who reach draft age are turned away on account of poor health, a senior army general revealed on Thursday.

Russian army chief of staff general Valery Kulikov said that while the armed forces take in 400,000 new conscripts on a yearly basis, it turns down another 600,000 young men on account of various ailments.

And even among those who do make it into the ranks, "47 out 1,000 are sent home each year because of their poor health," Kulikov added.

Voicing support for President Vladimir Putin's proposal to phase out military conscription over the coming decade, Kulikov said that many of the recruits also suffer from serious psychological disorders.

"They may have no declared pathology before they join, but once they are in the army, they find themselves under great pressure and everything goes wrong, sometimes, they even shoot at other conscripts," he said.

Contract soldiers, for their part, suffer fewer psychological traumas and are less likely to turn to the use of drugs, a problem which is quicly spreading in the Russian military, said Kulikov.

Facing chronic funding shortage and a demoralized military, Putin this month called on the armed forces to come up with a reform plan that would see through a transition to a fully professional force by 2010.

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