The Daily Times of Pakistan reports on how Russia fills the ranks of its armed forced with patriotic men who love their country, fully respecting the rule of law like a civilized nation:
Russia army ‘press-gangs’ conscripts-campaigners
‘The military close their eyes to our complaints’
Artyom Yemelyanov had a document deferring his military service, but that did not stop officers grabbing the 20-year-old Russian from his work, shaving his head and packing him off to serve as a conscript. Rights groups say Russia’s military is taking young men from their homes, work and even hospitals and press-ganging them into the army despite the fact they are exempt from the draft.
The military has long had to hunt down young men trying to dodge the draft, an 18-month compulsory stint in the armed forces which is widely feared because of bullying and sometimes squalid conditions. Often, the reasons young men give for not serving are bogus. For example, draftees can pay corrupt doctors to diagnose them with non-existent illnesses.
But rights groups say draft boards frequently do not bother to establish if the draftee’s excuse is legitimate or not and instead put them in uniform and send them off to units before they have time to appeal against their call-up.
A defence ministry spokesman denied that people were being drafted illegally. Yemelyanov was released after the campaign group, the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee, intervened. But Lyudmila Vorobyova, with the group’s Moscow office, said there were dozens of similar cases and the military did not always admit its mistake.
In another case, Alexei Vabilyan, 20, was hauled off into the military from hospital, despite holding valid medical papers showing he needed treatment to his leg, Vorobyova said.
“The most insulting thing is that they (the military) close their eyes to our complaints,” she said in her cramped office. Campaigners say the number of such cases has gone up since compulsory military service was cut this year from two years to 18 months as part of a drive to modernise the armed forces.
That meant the military - which was already struggling to fill the ranks because of high levels of draft-dodging - had to bring in even more recruits to maintain numbers.
Campaigners also allege corrupt draft board officers are using the recruitment drive as an excuse to extort money from conscripts’ families in return for letting them go free.
Brazen: “They have started to behave more harshly ... (and) started seizing people more brazenly, on the streets,” said Ella Polyakova, chair of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee in St Petersburg, Russia’s second city. Igor Kostychin, deputy head of the defence ministry’s press service, said there were stringent procedures in place to make sure no one who should not be in the army is called up. In the event someone is illegally drafted, “every concrete case should be examined by prosecutors”, Kostychin said. Only about nine percent of those eligible for conscription answer their call-up.
The horrendous case last year of Andrei Sychev has deterred many. The 19-year-old recruit had his legs and genitals amputated after being abused in his unit.
So far this year, the Soldiers’ Mothers in St Petersburg say they have registered 26 cases of people being unfairly drafted. Many were detained by patrols of police and draft board officers who comb the city’s metro stations.
Mikhail Zhbanov, 24, was drafted despite having an official exemption on health grounds, his father, Anatoly, told Reuters.
“They said to him: ‘You are dodging service.’ Right there and then they took him away, detained him and sent him off,” Anatoly Zhbanov said.
A court suspended the decision to draft Mikhail but by then he was already in a unit near the Arctic Circle, his father said. “My wife is on the verge of hysterics and is only holding on in the hope she will see her son,” he said. reuters