The Russian government is cracking down on draft dodgers in a bid to find recruits for its military.
It is also going after websites that help potential draftees escape service in a military known for harsh and spartan living conditions, and which is increasingly relying on volunteers instead of conscripts.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has said that “the number of draft dodgers is declining,” according to the newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets. “However, over the past period, the military prosecutor’s office has initiated proceedings against 1,000 people, mainly draft evaders or organizers of ‘evasion of service.’”
In October, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering 132,000 people to be drafted for the autumn 2019 conscription period. Russia’s armed forces comprise about 900,000 active-duty personnel, plus two million reserves and 554,000 paramilitary troops. Conscripts serve for one year, though they also have option of signing on as volunteer contract soldiers—with much better pay and benefits—in return for a two-year enlistment.
Nonetheless, Russian servicemen still face the brutal hazing that is a legacy of the Soviet military. In November 2019, a Russian soldier shot eight of his comrades to death at a Siberian military base. Private Ramil Shamsutdinov, a twenty-year-old draftee, complained that his officers threatened to have him beaten and raped, according to Shamsutdinov’s father.
During the Vietnam War, friendly doctors could be found to offer medical exemptions to potential American draftees (there are allegations that President Donald Trump benefited from such an arrangement). Russian authorities today are worried about for-profit websites that offer to help Russian conscripts evade service.