Record Violations Cited in Recent Military Draft

Russian conscripts. Source: image.v4.obozrevatel.comThe Russian military draft in Fall 2009 was plagued by more rights violations than any other draft in the past 15 years, said spokeswoman Tatyana Kuznetsova of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers in a press conference on Tuesday.

Kuznetsova, whose organization works to provide information and legal aid regarding military law, noted numerous examples of flagrant violations of conscript’ rights during the conference, citing a steep cut in military funding as a key source of problems.

During this past draft, she said, military enlistment offices employed policemen to detain and deliver young men found without a registration slip, a document legally required to be carried at all times by Russians. Moreover, some of these men were not even Russian citizens, making them most likely illegal immigrants who would have virtually no chance of avoiding conscription into the Russian army.

In this way, she said, the enlistment offices hoped to meet their quotas.

Once recruited, Kuznetsova went on, the young men were often examined by medical students who had no authority to practice medicine. Even so, there were still not enough medical personnel on hand to deal with the large number of conscripts.

The Russian military cut its planned draft to 271 thousand recruits for Fall 2009, still a staggering figure given the massive cuts in funding and personnel that the military faced this past year.

In a particularly striking example of the lengths enlistment officers went to in order to meet their quotas, Kuznetsova noted the case of a young man with cerebral palsy, who was brought to a recruitment center and told by a military commissioner that “they’ll cure him in the army.”

Ella Polyakova, a representative of Soldiers’ Mothers in St. Petersburg, said that many instances of severe medical problems were observed in various conscription centers. An epidemic of pneumonia, many cases of angina, and three fatal cases of swine flu were seen plaguing the new recruits. Additionally, one new conscript had committed suicide.

The office of the military prosecutor had been markedly less helpful during the past year in response to requests for help from the Soldiers’ Mothers than in the past, said Polyakova, saying that it had “stepped aside.”

Russian men are eligible for the country’s mandatory military draft between the ages of 18 and 27. It is officially avoidable by obtaining a certified medical diagnosis or through university enrollment. The vast majority of eligible Russians go to great lengths to dodge the draft, due to the infamous brutality, mistreatment and lack of compensation faced by enlisted soldiers. One horrific hazing incident in 2005 left one conscript with no legs or genitals. In recent years, the military has stepped up attempts to catch those dodging the draft, as Russia’s ongoing low birth rate has drastically reduced the number of eligible men.