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"Deserters": Defence Minister slams reservists for switching to civilian service

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö has expressed concerns about reservists switching from military to civilian service for their refresher training. Speaking at the opening of the National Defence Course on Monday, Niinistö said that the practice undermines the credibility of the system.

Jussi Niinistö
Jussi Niinistö Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö says he is concerned about reservists who have completed military service opting for non-military or civilian service for their supplementary training. Niinistö made the comments during a speech at the start of a National Defence Course in Helsinki on Monday.

The Minister said that while he did not see the phenomenon as a major problem, it was an important question of principle.

"It’s difficult for me to see how after completing their military service as conscripts, hundreds of reservists would have the kind of ethical epiphany that armed service would suddenly go against their convictions," Niinistö said.

"It also seems that not all reservists who have transferred to civilian service are being completely honest. These people do not deserve our respect," he continued.

"A reservist shouldn’t just up and leave and Finland should not be left without defence just because armed service is no longer fun. Reservist deserters undermine the credibility of our system," Niinistö declared.

Records show that the number of reservists who switched to civilian service increased dramatically in 2015, when nearly 1,000 people applied to change their form of service. In 2016, there were 700 applications for civilian refresher service.

Before 2015, officials logged just a few hundred requests annually to change from armed service.

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