Pensioners, the disabled, people with no combat experience and men who have not even served in the army – draft notices in Russia are currently also going to members of these groups. This is confirmed by observers with whom Deutsche Welle spoke about the work of the Russian conscription offices.
A week after President Vladimir Putin’s speech ordering so-called “partial mobilization,” thousands of men have already been conscripted into the Russian army, which has been waging a war of aggression against Ukraine since February. According to observers, however, the recruitment that is now ongoing contradicts the specifications of the Ministry of Defense in many cases.
“The notification came on Sunday afternoon. My husband had to appear at the draft office at 2:00 p.m. There he was registered, he had to hand in his papers and at 5:30 p.m. he took the bus to the training course,” reports the wife of 39-year-old Igor (all names have been changed in the text for security reasons).
Judging by his age and rank as a reserve sergeant, Igor, who lives in Moscow, should not have been drafted. Because men in this rank who are older than 35 do not fall under the so-called “partial mobilization”.
The Ministry of Defense had made corresponding specifications immediately after Putin’s order. But Igor, as he told his wife, was drafted along with around 120 other people who were over the age limit.
But this is not the only violation that Igor faced. His wife reports that the enlistment office did not carry out a medical examination, although it is required by the “On Mobilization” law to determine suitability for military service.
In addition, Igor’s job title has changed. “His military ID card says Cavalryman of the Border Troops. Now Igor says he was assigned the position of a gunner in the artillery,” the woman said. However, she emphasizes that her husband will not contest the draft despite the violations.
But there are also cases in which men who were wrongly conscripted were sent back home. This is what happened, for example, to a reserve soldier with no combat experience. He was drafted despite being 43 years old.
“This is happening because local draft offices are wreaking havoc and sending out random notices. That was confirmed to me on all hotlines,” his outraged wife Oksana told Deutsche Welle.
The woman from Moscow wrote complaints, after which she personally went to the draft office. Then her husband was allowed to go home. “Now he’s on his way home from the city of Serpukhov,” Oksana says.
She does not know whether this was possible thanks to her complaints “to all authorities” or whether someone in the office noticed his mistake when her husband was called up.
Konstantin, an actor from Chelyabinsk in the south-east of the Urals, also suspects that conscription office employees can apparently change their notices. He was informed unofficially by telephone from the head of the administration of the village where he is registered but does not live that he would receive a draft notice.
But Konstantin served in the army for only a year and has no combat experience. A day after the call, however, Konstantin received the relieving news that he would not be drafted after all.
“As I understand, they have enough people. There was a huge line in front of the draft office. My friend had received a notification and was standing in line, but when it was his turn, they said he was no longer needed,” says Konstantin.
He stresses that even if the office had not recruited the number of men it required, he would not have gone there.
“If I knew what exactly I was supposed to be fighting for, I might have gone and followed a draft. But now this is not like in the Great Patriotic War. In such a situation everything would have been clear. But the situation today is strange,” said the young actor.
Alexander Belik, a lawyer for Russia’s “Conscientious Objectors’ Movement,” points out that there are ambiguities between the Defense Ministry’s guidelines and Putin’s order. “No changes have been made to the decree of the Russian President, it does not provide for an age limit for mobilization,” Belik said.
His organization has to do with two violations of the law. “They grab anyone they catch and don’t do a health check. That means they simply take the suitability determined many years ago,” explains the lawyer. Belik advises those who are looking for help not to follow the call-up notice and to face the threat of an administrative fine of 3,000 rubles (around 53 euros).
And for those who are already in training and don’t want to go to war, he recommends applying for community service and leaving the military training area as soon as possible. “Then you have to sue the drafting office and the commission responsible for mobilization,” explains Belik.
In the past few days, several Russian governors have admitted violations by conscription offices during the “partial mobilization.” They promise to quickly deal with any case and send home those accidentally drafted.
In the Magadan region of north-eastern Russia, for example, military commissar Sergey Baranovsky has already lost his post “due to mistakes in partial mobilization”. This is reported by the governor Sergey Nosov. At his request, the command of the military district east sent a new commissioner – “a career officer who brought order back to the work of the drafting office,” said Nosow.
Adaptation from the Russian: Markian Ostapchuk
Author: Sergey Satanovskiy
The original of this article “What conscripted Russians say” comes from Deutsche Welle.