Lawyers claim military bullies men with draft-dodging charges
The military is using scare tactics to recruit men into the army by sending them letters stating they are draft dodging and have committed a crime.
The men are receiving copies of letters addressed to the local prosecutor’s office and police departments, according to one of the letters obtained by the Kyiv Post.
Kyiv’s Desnyansky District Military Commissar has admitted sending out the threatening letters that warn men they could face up to five years in jail for failing to appear for service.
Vitaliy, a Kyiv resident, was shocked and scared when he received the curious letter.
It was stapled to a utility bill and said he was ordered to attend a local recruitment office at a given date – even though he’d never been sent an official draft notice, and no one from the local recruitment office had ever contacted him.
He would not give his full name out of fear of receiving more pressure from military officials.
Vitaliy is not the only one who has been sent such letters.
They have been a hot topic on social media and forums, with users already sarcastically dubbing them “letters of happiness.” Activists and lawyers say the documents were drawn up incorrectly and are intended to bully the recipients.
Although Vitaliy wasn’t the addressee of the letter, by appearances, a copy of it was sent to him merely because it concerns a legal case being made against him.
In the correspondence, the military commissar asks prosecutors and police to open an investigation into Vitaliy, who “committed a crime, as defined in Article 336 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine: being obliged to perform military service, he is evading it through inaction, and he failed to appear at the times set by the recruitment office without giving a valid excuse.”
The letter also says that Vitaliy must be included on the “single register of citizens who are evading military service.” The document ended with the date on which Vitaliy should come to the recruitment office.
Once the initial shock receded, Vitaliy consulted a lawyer.
“The lawyer examined the document, and came to the unequivocal conclusion that there were, and are, no valid reasons for such accusations to be made,” Vitaliy told the Kyiv Post.
Ihor Godetsky, another lawyer who has been consulted by dozens of men about similar letters, agrees – under current Ukrainian legislation, not a single military commissar has the authority to send out such documents.
“The document that regulates the actions of the military is the Rule on the Military Commissariat, and it doesn’t contain a single word about the military commissar having the right to sign anything,” Godetsky told the Kyiv Post. He said that the resolutions with instructions for recruitment offices are drawn up by the Cabinet of Ministers.
The government’s conscription rules stipulate that the military must gather more than 10 documents, including the counterfoil of a signed draft notice, before it can file a police complaint, Godetsky said.
He also noted that since Ukraine is undergoing only partial troop mobilization, the article of the criminal code mentioned does not apply in this case.
According to Godetsky, there is another sentence in the letter that causes him concern: “The phrase ‘he has committed a crime’ means that the commissar accused (of a crime) a man who hasn’t been convicted yet, and who maybe hasn’t even received a draft notice yet.”
What makes the letter even less accurate is that there is no such thing as a “single register of citizens who are evading military service,” Godetsky added.
“I recommend that the man to go straight to the court with this letter,” he told the Kyiv Post.
Mykola Popelsky from the General Staff of the Ground Forces of Ukraine, to which all the recruitment offices are subordinate, confirmed that military commissars in Kyiv are sending out such letters.
He also admitted that the form of the letter was not set by any law.
The military commissar should do whatever it takes "to conscript the established amount of men liable for military service,” he told the Kyiv Post.
Popelsky noted that the letters were addressed first to the prosecutor’s offices and police departments so that they can open a case against the mentioned person.
Yet prosecutors and the police say they haven’t received the letters.
The press service of the Kyiv prosecutor’s office told the Kyiv Post their local departments have not received any such letters, and have not even heard of them.
Oleksandr Gomon, acting head of the police department in Desnyansky district, where Vitaliy lives, also told the Kyiv Post that his department hasn’t received any of these letters.
According to Godetsky, the commissar who is sending out these letters is taking advantage of “a section of the uneducated population, bringing to the front line not those who want to serve and who are ready for modern work with modern equipment, but those who are scared, and who have no idea what the law means.”
A doctor from the medical board in one of the military recruitment offices in Zaporizhyzhya tests a man’s eyesight on March 25. (UNIAN)