During a special plenary session of the Russian Duma yesterday devoted primarily to the armed forces, deputies requested the Russian prosecutor-general to launch a criminal investigation into the starvation deaths of several army recruits. The resolution, which also denounced inadequate efforts to supply the army with necessities, said that public servants right up to the Finance Minister should be held criminally responsible for the deaths. It also urged the government to meet fully previous budget commitments for military food supplies and to allocate an additional 6.35 trillion rubles for the purchase of other basic necessities. In testimony before the Duma, Russian deputy defense minister Vladimir Churanov urged deputies to review defense spending and to increase it. He argued that the funds received by the army from 1993-1995 covered barely 50 percent of its needs. He also described living conditions in some garrisons as desperate. (Russian TV, "Vesti" & Interfax, April 25)
The Duma yesterday also overwhelmingly approved a bill on changes to the military service law that would mandate a reduction of military service to 18 months, rather than the normal 24, for draftees who have served in hot spots under conditions of conflict. (Itar-Tass, April 25)
St. Petersburg Prepares for Elections.