Digest of Movement of Conscientious Objection Russia, August 2023

Criminal liability for evading conscription for military service during mobilization

Member of the Russian Parliament and head of the Defense Committee Andrei Kartapolov announced the introduction of criminal liability for evading conscription for military service during mobilization or in wartime. Currently, according to the law, only conscripts who evade military service can receive a criminal conviction. In turn, there is no criminal liability for failure to appear at the military office during ongoing mobilization. That is why human rights activists recommended that citizens simply not go to the military office - this method remains still effective if they want to resist mobilization for war.

It is noteworthy that the bill on criminal liability was not introduced into parliament. It is alleged that it was developed in the Russian Government in the commission on legislative activities. Whether we will see this bill in the future can only be guessed at, but if it is introduced, it will mean the resumption of conscription activities to send citizens to the war with Ukraine.

MCO nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

The International Peace Bureau (IPB) has nominated three organizations that help deserters and conscientious objectors for the Nobel Peace Prize. These are the Belarusian organization Our Home, the Russian Movement of Conscientious Objectors to Military Service and the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement. The report said the three organizations have demonstrated unprecedented skill and dedication in their efforts as advocates for peace, conscientious objection and human rights, especially since Russia’s war against Ukraine began on February 24th, 2022, despite significant stigma that every organization has faced since then. In accordance with the charter of the Nobel Foundation, the right to nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize includes persons awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The International Peace Bureau received its award in 1910 for organizing disarmament conferences.

Raids on migrants in order to send them to war have become more frequent in Russia

Legally, mobilization in Russia continues, but in 2023, the Russian authorities adhere to a different tactic: they rely on the voluntary signing of a contract with the Ministry of Defense. This may be preceded by promises of large salaries and other compensation (the average salary of a contract soldier in war is 2,000 euros per month), or simply threats of non-existent provisions of the criminal law.

The legislation regarding foreigners arriving in Russia has also changed separately. Foreigners who sign a contract for military service for a period of at least one year have the right to obtain Russian citizenship in a simplified manner. Members of his family also receive the same right. Military offices, with the help of police officers, are recruiting foreigners for military service. Migrants are raided or rounded up, often with the use of violence, taken to the military office and almost forced to sign a contract. There were messages that internal institutions do not accept documents for obtaining Russian citizenship without a certificate from the military office stating that the person has signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense and are often deceived about the consequences that await them after signing the contract. In accordance with the current decree of the president of the Russian Federation, a contract can be terminated only upon reaching the age of 65 to 70 years, an extremely serious health condition, or the entry into force of a court judgement of imprisonment.

MCO demands the abolition of military service in the Russian army

We continue to appeal to the Russian authorities and demand that they cancel military service in the Russian army. In August, we launched a petition on change.org, which has already received 30,000 signatures. Yes, we understand that in war conditions the success of such petitions is minimal. However, as human rights defenders, we must set ourselves unattainable goals. Moreover, we must emphasize that modern conscription into the army is not normal and is nothing more than a transition for one year under the total control of the state. After the start of the war, the risks for conscripts in the army increased tenfold. There is evidence that conscripts are also participating in the war with Ukraine. That is why we must publicly say that the conscript army is archaic and a mistake that must be abolished.

Military offices do not have time to set up an electronic registry

Military offices cannot cope with the powers they received in April-August 2023. In particular they do not have time to launch an electronic military register, which would simplify the procedure for searching for conscripts and the procedure for introducing restrictions, including a ban on leaving the country.

According to the plan, a partial launch of the electronic registry is expected from January 1st, 2024. However, the head of the Ministry of Digital Development, Maksut Shadayev, stated that everything would start working from October 1st, 2023. Now we understand that these words were wrong.

The Russian parliament in July adopted separate amendments that allow military offices to introduce economic restrictions or prohibit departure from the country for conscripts without a working electronic registry. To include appropriate restrictions, it will be sufficient to confirm that the conscript was notified by a summons of the need to appear at the military office.

Artyom Klyga: Digest from the Movement of Conscientious Objection Russia, August 2023. Sent via email on October 25, 2023.

Keywords:    ⇒ Conscientious Objection   ⇒ Law   ⇒ Recruitment   ⇒ Russia