Armenia: Russian conscientious objector arrested by the Russian military and transferred to Russia
(20.12.2023) Uncertainty is spreading in the Russian exile community in Armenia following the arrest and extradition of a fugitive soldier by the Russian military police in the Armenian city of Gyumri.
Dmitry Setrakov, 20, had fled to Armenia to live in exile. On 6 December he was arrested by Russian military police and taken to a military prison of the Russian 102nd military garrison. He was initially sentenced to 27 days in detention for unauthorised removal from the troops, but now the Russian military has extradited him to Rostov-on-Don in the southern military district of Russia.
In Armenia, Setrakov believed he was safe from the Russian state, just like thousands of other Russian citizens who have fled to Armenia since the outbreak of the war. Until now, they have been able to live there without a visa and without the threat of deportation to Russia. Conscientious objectors have not always felt safe, as the Russian secret service has a strong presence in the country. But until now, the Armenian government has refused to honour any extradition requests from Russia.
It had already been feared that Setrakov would be extradited to Russia without the consent of the Armenian government. Without control, deportation to Russia is possible at any time via the military airport near Gymri. In principle, this would require the formal consent of the Armenian authorities, but the Russian authorities were probably not expecting this. Before Christmas, they created a fait accompli and handed him over to the military authorities in the southern district of Rostov-on-Don. There he faces years in prison or a transfer to the front.
The Armenian Helsinki Group opposed this and demanded that the government protect the conscientious objector. The organisation offered him legal assistance and tried to maintain contact with him and represent his case. In an initial publicity campaign, they drew attention to his case and demanded that his legal protection be respected. Formally, the Russian military police are not allowed to arrest people who are in Armenia and extradite them to Russia without Armenia’s consent. And since Setrakov did not belong to the unit stationed in Armenia, they had taken unlawful action against him. Forced departure to Russia would only have been possible via an extradition request.
Apparently, the Russian military authorities did not expect a consent in the first place, but have now created facts. Relations between Armenia and Russia have been strained since the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Russia accuses the government of turning to the West. Conversely, Armenia accuses Russia of not intervening with its so-called peacekeeping force in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. By disregarding Armenia’s sovereignty and jurisdiction, Russia has once again shown how it disregards them. With around 10,000 soldiers, the military garrison in Gymnri is one of the largest bases outside Russia and a sensitive pawn in the interstate relations between the two countries.
The Caucasian Conscientious Objectors Network, initiated by act for transformation, sees the case as a critical turning point in the assessment of the safety of Russian conscientious objectors in Armenia. "If Russian conscientious objectors," says Jürgen Menzel from act for transformation, "can run the risk of being arrested by Russian military police in the country and taken to the barracks at any time, no Russian who is wanted can feel safe in Armenia."
Now that Kazakhstan is no longer a safe country of residence for conscientious objectors, only Georgia remains. But even there, the cooperation of the security services and the government’s collaboration with Russia is repeatedly coming to light. Many people do not feel safe in the country.
Weitere Informationen über https://objectwarcampaign.org
Jürgen Menzel, act for transformation, 0176 6827 5504, menzel(at)act4transformation.net
Rudi Friedrich, Connection e.V., 069 8237 5534, office(at)Connection-eV.org
Connection e.V. and act for transformation gem eG. News, December 20, 2023