As Moscow’s forces grind to a halt in Ukraine, many young Russians in the conscription age group are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential of being sent to the front lines. An annual spring conscription, which begins Friday and intends to enlist 134,500 men for a one-year tour of military duty, is exacerbating such anxieties.
At a meeting of the military brass this week, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu promised that the new recruits would not be dispatched to the front lines or “hot areas.”
Many in Russia, however, were skeptical of the assertion, recalling the separatist battles in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s, in which thousands of inadequately trained young men were slain.
“I don’t believe them when they claim they’re not going to send conscripts into battle.” “They lie all the time,” said Vladislav, a 22-year-old who is nearing the end of his studies and is concerned that he may be drafted soon after graduation. Fearing retaliation, he requested that his last name not be used.
All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to serve in the military for one year, however many evade the draft due to medical reasons or deferments offered to university students. In Moscow and other major cities, the number of males avoiding the conscription is exceptionally high.
Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin and his staff claim that conscripts are not engaged in the “special military operation in Ukraine,” several appear to have been taken prisoner in the early days of the operation. Videos of detained Russians were posted on social media, with some showing them contacting their parents.
Despite being blindfolded, the mother of one of the convicts said she recognized her 20-year-old draftee son in a video.
“I identified him by the shape of his lips and the shape of his chin. “You know, I would have known him by his fingers,” claimed the lady, who requested anonymity and only used her first name, Lyubov. “I was the one who nursed him. “I was the one who reared him.”
The Defense Ministry was compelled to retract its comments and admit that some conscripts were deployed to Ukraine “by mistake” were captured while serving with a supply battalion away from the battle lines.
There have been reports that certain conscripts were compelled to sign military contracts prior to the invasion that permitted them to be deployed into combat – a job that is generally reserved for army volunteers. Some of the detained troops said that their commanding superiors informed them they were going on a military exercise but that they ended up fighting in Ukraine instead.
Only four soldiers survived an entire company of 100 men who were compelled to sign such contracts and sent into the fighting zone, according to Lyudmila Narusova, a member of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber. Officials from the military declined to comment on her allegations.
The human rights commissioner in St. Petersburg, Svetlana Agapitova, said on Wednesday that families of seven troops had written to her to protest about the men being compelled to sign the contract and deployed to Ukraine against their will. She said that two of them had already been returned to Russia.
In order to modernize and strengthen the army’s preparedness, the Kremlin has prioritized raising the percentage of voluntary contract troops in recent years. The 1 million-strong military today comprises almost 400,000 contract troops, including 147,000 infantrymen. If the battle carries on, those numbers may not be enough to keep the operations going.
The Kremlin may eventually have to choose between fighting with a small number of troops and risking public outrage, which could fuel anti-draft sentiment and destabilize the political situation, or trying to replenish the ranks with a larger draft and risking public outrage, which could fuel anti-draft sentiment and destabilize the political situation. During the conflict in Chechnya, a similar event occurred.
Dmitry, a 25-year-old IT expert, has a medical deferment that will keep him out of the draft. However, he, like many others, is concerned that authorities may forgive certain deferments in order to reinforce the military.
“I despise war. Dmitry, who begged not to be recognized by his last name for fear of retaliation, said, “I believe it’s a horrible disaster.” “I’m afraid the government will change the regulations, and I’ll be drafted.” Why should I accept what they say about the draft now when they’ve been insisting for months that they won’t attack Ukraine?”
Proposed legislation would make it easier for military recruiters to call up conscripts, but the bill has been placed on hold for the time being.
Nonetheless, it added to the public’s fear.
Medical panels at recruiting centers frequently allow youngsters who should be excused from duty due to sickness, according to Alexei Tabalov, a lawyer who advises conscripts. He went on to say that their attitudes may now become even more abrasive.
“It’s very likely that physicians would turn a blind eye to conscripts’ diseases and deem them fit for military service,” Tabalov warned.
There are suspicions that, in addition to reducing the medical criteria for draftees, the government may try to institute martial law, which would prevent Russian men from leaving the country and, like Ukraine, force them to fight.
“We’ve had a lot of calls from folks who are worried about mobilization,” Tabalov added. “In this scenario, people are terrified of everything.” No one had ever considered the necessity to examine the legislation on mobilization.”
The Kremlin has categorically rejected any such intentions, and military officials say that the army has enough contract soldiers in Ukraine to serve. Given the authorities’ past record, many Russians remain distrustful of their claims.
“How can one have faith in Putin if he claims one day that conscripts will not be deployed there… and then the Defense Ministry admits they were there?” Tabalov enquired.
For people who believe military service is incompatible with their convictions, an existing statute allows for a 21-month alternative civil service in hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions, although military conscription offices frequently deny such requests.
Following the start of the conflict, Tabalov said his organization received a flood of questions regarding the alternative service statute, which is loosely worded and allows military authorities to easily reject applications.
“We’re concerned that, given the present militarist mentality, military conscription offices may adopt a stronger stance and reject alternative civil service pleas,” he added.