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Russian Military Concerned With Evasion As Army Draft Begins

"A draftee is not luggage": Russian Union of Soldiers' Mothers protest
"A draftee is not luggage": Russian Union of Soldiers' Mothers protest
MOSCOW -- The Russian Defense Ministry predicts that about half of the recruits for the fall recruitment into the military will evade the draft, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

General Vasily Smirnov, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army, announced that the new recruits should contribute nearly 300,000 people to the armed forces.

But the Defense Ministry notes that about half those planned recruits will find ways to avoid being drafted.

Recruitment began on October 1.

The ministry also added that there was currently no discussion about increasing the length of the 12 months required service, as some critics have called for as a way to overcome the large number of draft dodgers.

Valentina Melnikova, head of the Russian Union of Soldiers' Mothers, told RFE/RL on October 1 that about half of the new recruits are not healthy enough to serve in the army.

"In my opinion, 150,000 recruits will be immediately asked to go through more tests and even to go for treatment," she said. "But General Smirnov controls all new recruits, and he believes that all are healthy and should serve. So then, of course, men will be forcefully conscripted and sent off."

Melnikova and the Union of Soldiers' Mothers tell parents to prepare all of their child's health documents beforehand. She warns parents that "army doctors will try not to accept health documents" if they show a deficiency.

The Defense Ministry has also issued new instructions regarding recruits that allow parents to come to the recruitment center with their child and attend the meeting with the recruitment committee.

The Defense Ministry said it hoped this would allow parents to know exactly where their son will serve and under what terms. In addition, the ministry said it wanted to create parental committees on certain army bases.

Young soldier recruited into the Russian army at a railway station, Kazan
Also according to the new laws, new recruits may be able to serve near their homes.

But the editor in chief of the newspaper "Independent Army Review," Viktor Litovkin, explains that recruits will serve in their "district," which for those registered in the "western half of Russia" encompasses the area from "the Baltic [border] to the Volga."

Litovkin says that there are only two brigades around Moscow, which together are far too small to accomodate all the recruits from the Moscow region.

In addition, the Defense Ministry will start allowing parents, representatives from the Soldiers' Mothers, or human rights activists to accompany recruits to the unit where they will serve.

Melnikova said it was a great idea in theory, but wondered how parents and her organization will be able to afford such excursions.

"Any trip means some cost," she said. "Who is going to pay for these trips? And there are so many men being sent out that we don't have enough representatives to send with them."

Viktor Baranets, a military expert with the newspaper "Komsomolskaya pravda," said there was still the problem of men from Chechnya not serving outside their republic.

"It is already the millionth year that the Republic of Chechnya has been considered to be located outside the realm of law in terms of army recruitment," he told RFE/RL. "Right now young Chechen men are not called to serve outside [of Chechnya]. This is a wild violation of federal law."

The army's General Staff reports that in connection with spring recruitment, 200 cases have been brought against recruits who illegally eluded conscription. There have already been 87 convictions of recruits who were ordered to serve their 12 months. The army estimates that about 130,000 recruits are evading military service.