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Sweden reintroduces military draft amid 'deteriorating security environment'

Sweden's left-leaning government is reintroducing a military draft for both men and women because of what the defence minister called a deteriorating security environment in Europe and around the country.

Sweden did away with the draft seven years ago, and at that point only men were eligible.

Under the plan approved on Thursday, at least 4,000 18-year-olds could be called up each year, starting on January 1 2018.

The policy affects residents born after 1999.

As in the current system, Swedes will still be able to volunteer for military service.

In 2010, Sweden abolished compulsory military service for men because there were enough volunteers to meet the region's military needs.

The government said "the all-volunteer recruitment hasn't provided the armed forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of conscription is needed for military readiness".

In September, non-Nato member Sweden stationed permanent troops on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, which defence minister Peter Hultqvist described as sending a signal after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its "increasing pressure" on the neighbouring Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

There have been reports of airspace violations by Russia's military aircraft in the region and a military build-up in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which sits across the Baltic Sea from Sweden.

The Swedish government, which has often described itself as "feminist", said "modern conscription is gender neutral and will include both women and men".

Sweden's armed forces lack 1,000 active troops as well as 7 000 reservists, according to the coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens, adding enrolment should be made possible from July 1, and basic military training with compulsory service from January 1.

About 20,000 people work for the Swedish armed forces, of whom 84% are men and 16% women, according to the forces' website.

Over the months, 13,000 young Swedes will be called upon and 4,000 will be enrolled.

AP

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