Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 105

In the absence of a law on Civil Defense Forces, President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree May 28 regulating their status, operations, and composition. Subordinate to the Ministry for Emergency Situations, the tasks entrusted to the Civil Defense Forces will reportedly be widened and their manpower increased from 20,000 to 50,000. Civil defense troops are to be equipped with special technical equipment that will allow them to conduct reconnaissance in areas threatened by radiation, chemical, or bacteriological contamination. They are also to protect the country’s economic facilities against high-precision weaponry and will be tasked with defusing bombs. They are to be manned initially with conscripts from the military draft, but by the year 2000 will recruit only volunteers. Civil defense officers are to enjoy equal status with their regular army counterparts, and will also receive the same allowances and pensions. (Itar-Tass, May 28; Moskovsky komsomolets, May 30)

Yeltsin’s decree is interesting in part because it appears to contradict his recent public comments lamenting the fact that the number of Russians in uniform has remained constant in recent years despite significant cuts in the regular army. By decreeing a significant increase in civil defense troops and a raise in their status, he appears to be indicating that the weight of "internal" or domestic military forces will continue to grow vis-a-vis the regular army. This would seem to be especially true if his recent decrees and statements on military reform yield a smaller professional army, as seems likely.

Belarusian Police Clash with Demonstrators.