A new law eliminates a third of the reasons for exemption from conscription. The recruiters have jumped the gun on this, by suddenly reversing the exemptions (usually on medical grounds, and often purchased by bribing a doctor) of thousands of young men. This was done because more and more conscripts are either paying a bribe for an exemption, or just not showing up. The military is having an increasingly more difficult maintaining its strength of 1.3 million. The legislature, bowing to popular demand, is also reducing the period of conscript service from two years to one (starting in 2008). Opinion polls show that half the voters want an-all volunteer army. A year ago, only 30 percent did. The military is shifting to an all-volunteer force as quickly as it can. The main constraint is money, because the volunteer, or "contract", soldiers have to be paid a competitive (to civilian jobs) salary, and provided with adequate housing and benefits (otherwise, qualified people will not sign those contracts.) The one year conscripts will be largely useless, as it takes nearly six months to teach new recruits any useful military skills. The one year term of service also means more recruits will be needed, and those recruits are simply not there. The generals are not too perturbed, for they know this situation will force the government to come up with the money for an all (or nearly all) volunteer force.
June 17, 2006: Acting on a tip, Russian police commandos in Chechnya killed rebel leader Abdul Khalim Sadulayev. The Chechen rebels have been shrinking in numbers and effectiveness over the last few years. Sadulayev took over leadership last year, when his predecessor was killed by Russian commandos. There are barely enough Chechen rebels of them left to attract media attention, with a bombing or ambush, more than once or twice a month. The remaining Chechen rebels are largely Islamic radicals and terrorists as well. Al Qaeda and militant Islamic charities, have long been one of the main supports of the Chechen rebels. But these rebels have made themselves so unpopular in Chechnya, that most have fled to neighboring areas, and set up operations there.