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Russian military opens door for foreigners

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MOSCOW (PTI): Even as President Dmitry Medvedev announced a three-fold increase in the basic pays of the servicemen, the Defence Ministry has opened the doors for foreigners to join the Russian Armed Forces.

Speaking before the army commanders in the Nizhnynovogorod region, Medvedev promised that in spite of budget deficit a lieutenant rank officer will get the basic pay of 50 thousand roubles (around USD 1800).

According to the amended law posted on the Defence Ministry website, a citizen of any foreign country, aged 18-30, can now sign an initial 5-year contract to join the Russian army.

A good command over Russian language and absence of criminal record are the basic requirements for joining the Russian Armed Forces. As an incentive, the recruits will be offered Russian citizenship after three years of service.

In 2009, about 350 foreign citizens, mostly from CIS countries were serving in the Russian Armed Forces, however, there were also from Latvia, Germany, and Israel.

According to RIA Novosti, in the past year 699 foreigners applied to join the Russian military but most were rejected for having poor knowledge of Russian, health problems, or low level of education.

In line with an ongoing military reform, the Russian Armed Forces will be downsized to 1 million personnel by 2016, with 150,000 officers and about 745,000 soldiers.

Back in late 1990s, several Russian experts and lawmakers had proposed to the erstwhile Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Charnajit Singh to promote the teaching of Russian language in the schools of the state under the three-language formula to prepare the labour force and servicemen for deployment in the sparsely populated Russian regions bordering China.

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