Russia: More than 250,000 flee recruitment to war

Russian organizations call for protection and asylum for all conscientious objectors

by Connection e.V. and EAK

(20.09.2023) One year after the partial mobilization, Connection e.V. today presents updated figures on the flight of men subject to military service from Russia. Based on a study by the independent network for analysis and policy RE: Russia, Connection e.V. concludes that at least 250,000 men subject to military draft from Russia have left the country since the beginning of the war against Ukraine and are seeking protection in other countries. Connection e.V. and the Protestant Association for Conscientious Objection and Peace (EAK) demand that steps finally be taken to protect these individuals.

"The majority of them went to Kazakhstan, Armenia, Turkey or Serbia," said Rudi Friedrich of Connection e.V. today. "In the European Union, probably only just under 10,000 have applied for asylum in total. And they must experience in many cases that their asylum application is rejected. This is an untenable situation."

The ministry of interior affairs in Germany and the Cour Nationale du Droit d’Asile in France did agree to grant refugee protection to Russian deserters. Germany said "it can be assumed that desertion - as an active declaration against warfare - is considered an expression of oppositional conviction." The French court considered: “If they were to commit war crimes, those who failed to comply with the partial mobilization in Russia must be recognized as refugees, because of the sanctions constituting persecution to which they would be exposed if they returned.” In addition, a high punishment was to be expected, which has since been confirmed. Mediazona reported on July 19, 2023, that one hundred cases would be opened every week since the beginning of 2023. Sentences of up to 13 years in prison for non-compliance with the draft have become known (FAZ, Germany, 15.9.2023).

In recent months, many politicians have spoken out in favor of giving protection to conscientious objectors from Russia, including the president of the European Council, Charles Michel. However, the majority of Russian refuseniks are rejected in asylum proceedings. This is especially the case for those who fled in time before a possible recruitment.

Wolfgang Max Burggraf of the Protestant Association for Conscientious Objection and Peace (EAK) explains. "Hundreds of thousands have decided not to participate in Russia’s war. They did not want to expose themselves to the danger of being taken directly to the front. They don’t want to fight and they don’t want to kill. The majority of asylum seekers from Russia who are subject to military service have therefore already evaded possible recruitment ahead of time. This will now be their undoing in the asylum process."

This is also the reason why there have been very few recognitions of Russian asylum applicants so far. The Federal Office of Migration and Refugees in Germany told Deutsche Welle a month ago that since the start of the Ukraine war in Germany, only 83 Russian refugees of conscription age have been granted protection out of a total of 1,418 decisions. 138 applications have been rejected. The figures cover the period from Feb. 24, 2022, to July 31, 2023.

"A rejection always means the risk that the people concerned will end up being deported," explains Rudi Friedrich. "In the process, these refugees have evaded a war that violates international law and must very well expect to be recruited immediately if they are forced to return. Even the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees knows that the conscription practice in Russia has been changed, but pretends that there is no real threat of recruitment. The end result is that refuseniks will be handed over to the military for the war effort."

The call for protection and asylum for all conscientious objectors, military draft dodgers, and deserters from Russia is supported by an appeal from Russian organizations that explicitly refers to the anniversary of the partial mobilization. With the appeal, 90 organizations from Russia and many other countries call on the European Union and its member states to:

- Develop a unified approach to protect Russian citizens at risk of persecution for their conscientious objection or refusal to participate in combat operations;

- To develop visa regulations that would allow this group of people to enter the European Union;

- Support organizations that assist the flight of military conscripts from Russia and advocate for their protection and asylum;

- Supporting third countries in receiving this group of people.

Connection e.V. and the Protestant Association for Conscientious Objection and Peace (EAK) support this appeal and demand that steps finally be taken to protect these persons. Wolfgang Max Burggraf emphasizes: "It is not enough for politicians to refer to the asylum procedure, when at the same time we experience that exactly this asylum procedure leads to the fact that most of the conscientious objectors are rejected. They urgently need support and a perspective for their courageous step."

Connection e.V. and the Protestant Association for Conscientious Objection and Peace (EAK), together with more than 100 organizations, are campaigning at the European level for protection and asylum for conscientious objectors and deserters from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine as part of the #ObjectWarCampaign.

Connection e.V. and Ev. Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Kriegsdienstverweigerung und Frieden: News, September 20, 2023

Keywords:    ⇒ Asylum   ⇒ CO and Asylum   ⇒ Conscientious Objection   ⇒ Desertion   ⇒ Draft Evasion   ⇒ Europa   ⇒ Europe   ⇒ Russia   ⇒ Russland