Draft Dodgers

Ukraini­ans find it easy to evade mil­i­tary ser­vice

Kyiv Post - - Front Page - BY AL­LI­SON QUINN [email protected]

Even as Ukraine’s mil­i­tary finds it­self head-to-head with Rus­sian forces in the east, the latest draft in the coun­try has failed mis­er­ably – with draft dodgers ap­par­ently find­ing it sur­pris­ingly easy to evade ser­vice.

The most re­cent, sixth troop call-up since fight­ing be­gan in mid-April 2014 has by far been the most con­tro­ver­sial dur­ing the war, as it marked the first time peo­ple with no mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence were con­scripted, with men be­tween the ages of 20 and 60 el­i­gi­ble to serve.

Those ex­empt from the draft in­clude men rais­ing three or more chil­dren, sin­gle fathers rais­ing a

child un­der the age of 18, men who are not phys­i­cally fit for ser­vice for med­i­cal rea­sons, stu­dents and those whose re­li­gious be­liefs pre­vent them from killing.

Of­fi­cially end­ing on Aug. 18, the sixth wave, like those be­fore it, failed to meet its mark – hit­ting only 60 per­cent of the tar­get.

Alexan­der Prav­di­vets, the deputy head for mo­bi­liza­tion plan­ning with Ukraine’s Gen­eral Staff, an­nounced at a brief­ing in Kyiv on Aug. 18 that 26,800 peo­ple called up for the draft had failed to ap­pear for ser­vice. He said nearly 1,500 crim­i­nal cases have been opened against those who evaded mil­i­tary ser­vice.

The rea­sons for not want­ing to serve vary, with many “draft dodgers” cit­ing last year’s cat­a­strophic de­feat in Ilo­vaisk and this year’s de­feat in De­balt­seve as ev­i­dence that com­man­ders are dan­ger­ously in­com­pe­tent.

“We saw what hap­pened in Ilo­vaisk, when our guys were aban­doned by their com­man­ders. Why would any­body want to serve when such hor­ror sto­ries are sure to re­peat them­selves?” said Olek­siy, who said he’d got­ten out of the draft by pay­ing a doc­tor to di­ag­nose him with se­vere asthma. He spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to avoid pros­e­cu­tion.

Oth­ers have ar­gued that the draft is un­fair with­out an of­fi­cial dec­la­ra­tion of a state of war in the coun­try.

“This is a stupid war, and it’s not even re­ally a war if our guys aren’t even al­lowed to re­turn fire when they need to,” said Yaroslav, a 26-year-old who de­clined to pro­vide his sur­name be­cause he moved to avoid re­ceiv­ing a draft no­tice.

“Why should we sit in the trenches like pieces of meat if our gov­ern­ment won’t even ad­mit that there is a war on and in­stead en­gage in mind­less po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing?” he said. “I’d will­ingly go to the front – if the sons of oli­garchs and high-rank­ing of­fi­cials would get drafted just like all or­di­nary peo­ple.”

Mil­i­tary en­list­ment of­fi­cers have gone to great lengths to de­liver draft no­tices, even track­ing down tar­gets on trains and on the street.

Yet even such dras­tic mea­sures have done lit­tle if any­thing to com­bat the num­ber of draft dodgers.

Lawyer Igor Godetsy of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Hu­man Rights De­fend­ers said that the mo­bi­liza­tion is illegal. “Why isn’t Amer­ica help­ing Ukraine? Why aren’t other coun­tries help­ing? Be­cause of­fi­cially there is no war here, it’s a lo­cal con­flict. And for that very rea­son, in ac­cor­dance with the Con­sti­tu­tion, there can­not legally be a mo­bi­liza­tion. These peo­ple can­not be pros­e­cuted for not show­ing up in en­list­ment of­fices,” Godetsy said.

Vla­dyslav Seleznyov, spokesman for the Army Gen­eral Staff, could not be reached for com­ment. Vik­tor Muzhenko, Army Gen­eral Staff chief, said he was sat­is­fied with the draft in an in­ter­view with Novoe Vre­mya mag­a­zine that was pub­lished on Aug. 11.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the preva­lence of draft dodgers, Muzhenko said the first mo­bi­liza­tion wave was the worst.

Other prob­lems ex­ist. The Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine, or SBU, has re­peat­edly an­nounced the ar­rests of em­ploy­ees at mil­i­tary re­cruit­ment of­fices who are caught ac­cept­ing bribes to let draftees out of ser­vice. In mid-Au­gust, the deputy head of an en­list­ment of­fice in Dnipropetr­o­vsk Oblast was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of tak­ing a $700 bribe, the SBU said.

Mean­while, the le­gal crack­down on draft dodgers con­tin­ues. In Kyiv alone, 47 crim­i­nal cases have been opened against peo­ple evad­ing mil­i­tary ser­vice, and about 400 peo­ple are serv­ing time for evad­ing the draft.

The poor track record of past mo­bi­liza­tions seem to have prompted the author­i­ties to rely on vet­er­ans for the next wave, which Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko has warned is pos­si­ble in the near fu­ture if fight­ing es­ca­lates in the east. Some 7,000 peo­ple have been killed since the war started, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, with 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple in­ter­nally dis­placed.

An­driy Ly­senko, a mil­i­tary spokesman, said in an in­ter­view with 112 Ukraina on Aug. 26 that the sev­enth callup would fo­cus on for­mer ser­vice­men.

“The next wave will likely con­sist of vol­un­teers. Ninety per­cent will con­sist of peo­ple who will go will­ingly, those who re­signed af­ter their first year of ser­vice and it is pre­cisely they who will go to the en­list­ment of­fices be­cause they have ex­pe­ri­ence and their ri­fles are still warm,” Ly­senko said.

Many men will opt for the easy way out of any fu­ture mo­bi­liza­tions.

Dmytro Yad­voshenko, a com­puter pro­gram­mer and ac­tivist in Kharkiv who de­signed drones for the mil­i­tary, is per­haps the best-known fig­ure in the crack­down against evaders, although he ar­gued he is serv­ing the mil­i­tary in a dif­fer­ent way by cre­at­ing the drones. In early June, Yad­voshenko’s ar­rest caused an up­roar among ac­tivists. On Aug. 20, Yav­doshenko was re­leased on bail, but he still faces the prospect of jail time. He told the Kyiv Post on Aug. 26 that he had been re­leased and had be­gun work­ing on drones for the army. He de­clined to com­ment on his case, how­ever, say­ing media at­ten­tion could com­pro­mise his up­com­ing trial.

Se­myon Salatenko, a vol­un­teer with the Dnipro-1 Bat­tal­ion serv­ing in the east, said he and other vol­un­teer fight­ers do not sym­pa­thize with those who evade mil­i­tary ser­vice.

“There are tons of ways for them to get out of fight­ing. The fact that there is no of­fi­cial war makes it eas­ier, and our laws have plenty of loop­holes,” he said. “But we de­spise them.”

Vladimir Ki­don, a mil­i­tary re­cruit­ment of­fi­cer in Kyiv, holds up a draft no­tice to demon­strate his own readi­ness to head to the front last sum­mer. At that time, mil­i­tary en­list­ment of­fices in Kyiv said the mo­bi­liza­tion had a suc­cess rate of 96 per­cent...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ukraine

© PressReader. All rights reserved.