The Russian military will no longer allow gay people, people with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, or drug addicts into its armed forces, an official newspaper reported Thursday. The new regulations, published in Thursday's edition of Rossiiskaya Gazeta, are to take effect July 1. Officials said they are part of an effort to tighten health requirements for conscripts, though they come at a time when the Russian military, underfunded and demoralized since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is struggling to fill its ranks.
Each year thousands of young men--seeking to avoid the miserable conditions and vicious hazing that exist in the Russian armed forces as well as the war in Chechnya--forgo the twice-yearly call-up by acquiring deferments for education and medical reasons, paying bribes, or simply dodging the draft. Russian president Vladimir Putin has pledged to eliminate the compulsory draft and create a professional contract army, but the process has been beset by numerous delays and foot-dragging by the military's top brass.