More than a European network
For deserters and conscientious objectors from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine
Since the beginning of the war we have looked for possibilities to build a European network to support conscientious objectors and deserters from the countries involved in the war.
There are a number of organizations that have been working together internationally on the issue of conscientious objection for some time. In addition to Connection e.V., these are the International Fellowship of Reconciliation with its office in Geneva, the Quaker office in Geneva, the European Office for Conscientious Objection in Brussels and the London-based War Resisters’ International. But much more significant for practical support are groups and organizations from the countries involved in the war.
For Russia, the Движение сознательных отказчиков (Movement for Conscientious Objection - www.stoparmy.org) is of great importance. It offers a wealth of information on its website and other platforms on how Russian conscripts can avoid service, what to look for when contacting military commissariats, how to avoid wartime deployment, and how to refuse military service. Due to the repressive situation in Russia, the organization has gone into exile in Latvia, where it has expanded its online counselling activities in close cooperation with Aseistakieltäytyiäliitto, the Union for Conscientious Objection Finland.
For Belarus, there is especially НАШ ДОМ (Nash Dom/Our House - www.nash-dom.info), a human rights organization that has had to work from Lithuania for several years. Its spokesperson, Olga Karatch, has been classified as a terrorist by the Belarusian government on several occasions. Regardless, the organization has been calling on Belarusian conscripts to refuse military service with the campaign "NO means NO". It has met with considerable success: thousands evaded service and fled abroad. This has helped prevent Belarus from going to war so far.
In Ukraine the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement remains active. It supports conscientious objectors in individual cases and campaigns for an end to the war through numerous statements, events and contributions.
The German-based cooperative act4transformation (www.act4transformation.net) has set up a contact point in Georgia, especially for Russian and Belarusian conscientious objectors to military service and deserters. Currently staff members are being trained to be able to carry out the work effectively. The office in Tbilisi offers counselling to those affected and further support in individual cases.
Counselling hotline and brief information: In mid-March 2022, we opened a counselling hotline and publicized this, particularly via social media. Questions from affected conscientious objectors to military service and deserters are answered in Russian, English and German under the hotline +49 157 824 702 51 and the eMail firstname.lastname@example.org. The service is supplemented by brief information for dissatisfied soldiers about the possibilities of refusal and advice on what to consider when applying for asylum.
We have also received inquiries from deserters and conscientious objectors who have fled to Turkey, Armenia and Israel. In some cases, their situation is very precarious; they fear extradition to Russia, for example.
A network also means having a common voice towards governments, politics and authorities. Thus, we were able to hold various discussions with representatives of the organizations with members of the Bundestag and the European Parliament and thus raise the special situation of conscientious objectors to military service and deserters from the countries involved in the war.
The goal of the network is to create contact points in the various countries in order to be able to provide effective support to those who seek help. Important information is shared and published. We provide financial support to the groups. And we are planning to expand the network.
Connection e.V.: More than a European network. September 20, 2022