Conscientious Objection and Desertion
Russia, Belarus and Ukraine
Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine have different regulations on conscription, the right to conscientious objection to military service, draft evasion and desertion. In Russia and Belarus, the law on conscientious objection does not comply with international standards. Ukraine suspended the right to conscientious objection when the war began.
All three countries have compulsory military service, to which all men between the ages of 18 and 27 are subject. Russia and Ukraine have raised the age for possible conscription to about 60 in recent months.
Every person should have the right to apply for conscientious objection at any time. This is not guaranteed in any of the three countries.
In Russia and Belarus, an application is possible up to the time of conscription. There is also no right for reservists and soldiers to apply. If applications are reviewed, this would have to be done by an independent body. In fact, however, in Russia and Belarus the military has a say in the decisions. In Belarus, the right is also restricted to religious conscientious objectors.
Conscientious objectors should have the option of performing an alternative service independently of military service. Belarus in particular provides only for unarmed service within the military.
Ukraine suspended the existing conscientious objection law when martial law was introduced on February 24, 2022. Previously, only members of ten small religious communities could apply. The suspension has deprived them of this right. There have already been the first sentences of conscientious objectors to several years’ imprisonment on probation.
Those who do not join the military, i.e. who evade military service, are prosecuted. Depending on the time and situation, punishment can result in several years in prison. Desertion is prosecuted much more severely, especially during a war.
The right to conscientious objection to military service has been dealt with time and again by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which has defined criteria for this human right. The European Court of Human Rights has addressed it and ruled in 2011 that conscientious objection is a human right. Countries are therefore obliged to offer conscientious objectors a real possibility of not being called up for military service, even in the case of war.
Connection e.V.: Conscientious Objection and Desertion - Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, September 20, 2022