Digest March 2024


by The Movement of Conscientious Objectors

(13.05.2024) Dear friends, hello everyone! In our March news digest, we’ll focus on Moscow – it is where the reform of military offices began, and where summons are now being sent electronically. In Russia, on the other hand, authorities legalized the procedure for exemption from criminal liability for voluntary participation in war: the procedure will affect suspects and defendants in criminal cases, as well as convicts in prisons. Also in our digest are attempts by military offices to hand out summons for the March 17th elections. Enjoy reading!

Reform of Military Offices in Moscow

In early March, we received information that the personal files of conscripts residing in Moscow were being transported to a new building owned by the Moscow military office. It soon became clear that the Moscow authorities, in violation of existing federal and regional legislation, decided to reform the military offices. The idea is to create a single draft point for compulsory military service and transfer all decision-making powers to a single draft board, which has been named the "Unified Municipal Draft Board of the City of Moscow." Existing legislation requires that conscription in Moscow be organized at the district level of the city. Accordingly, for quite some time, 146 draft boards operated in 146 districts of Moscow. This system allowed local authorities, which are not affiliated with the army or the Ministry of Defense, to participate in the work of draft boards and demand compliance with legal procedures from them. According to the new rules devised by the Moscow Government, only officials from the Moscow Government will be included in the composition of the unified draft board. Such a reform is illegal, and the Movement of Conscientious Objectors will challenge all actions of the Moscow Government in the Moscow City Court.

Summons Issued to Members of Electoral Commissions during the Russian Presidential Elections

In March, presidential elections were held in Russia. Calling them fair and competitive is not possible. However, in Russia, members appointed to the electoral commissions from the party "Yabloko" have remained since 2020-2022, the only party in Russia that attempts to speak out against the war between Russia and Ukraine. Policemen attempted to serve summons to members of the electoral commissions from the "Yabloko" party with a requirement to appear at the military enlistment office. Summons were also attempted to be served to election observers in the city of Ivanovo. Traditionally, summons were attempted to be served by police officers or military enlistment office staff present at the polling station. Such a procedure is illegal. Police officers are not authorized to serve summons without an individual request from the military office regarding a specific conscript. Our organisation reacted to this situation and provided advice to members of the electoral commissions who attempted to be served with summons.

Commencement of Electronic Summons Distribution in Moscow

In March, electronic summons distribution began in Moscow on a trial basis through the special regional portal "mos.ru." Distribution began without an accepted and published regulatory legal act on the procedure for distributing electronic summons and without the implementation of a special registry where such summons should be placed. The Moscow Government resorted to its favorite method of deceiving conscripts: the summons indicate a requirement to appear on a specific date for conscription events and intimidate with threats of administrative and criminal liability. Those ignoring such summons receive individual sanction threats directly via SMS messages. The Movement of Conscientious Objectors advises conscripts from Moscow who encounter electronic summons and reminds them that without a fully formalized regulatory framework and a functioning special electronic registry, such summons are considered void. Nothing prevents conscripts from ignoring such messages from the military enlistment office.

Legalization of Exemption from Criminal Liability in Russia in Exchange for Participation in War

Russian authorities continue to devise mechanisms for recruiting convicts or suspects in committing a criminal offense for war. For this purpose, a new law was adopted in March, creating a procedure for exemption from criminal liability provided voluntary mobilization or signing a contract with the Ministry of Defense. Criminal cases against citizens will be suspended if the individual voluntarily goes to war, receives a state award, or subsequently resigns due to health conditions, reaching the maximum age limit (65-70 years), or the end of the mobilization period. Those convicted of any articles of the criminal code, except for extremist, terrorist, and violent offenses, if they wish to go to war, will be released under the command of the military unit. If they receive a state award or are dismissed for the reasons described above, they will be completely exempted from punishment. The criminal record of such individuals will be expunged, and they will be released from punishment.

Movement of Conscientious Objection Russia (MCO): Digest March 2024, 13.05.2024.

Keywords:    ⇒ Russia