(Reuters) – Inundated with panicked calls for help to avoid being summoned, Russian lawyers say they are doing everything they can to give advice to those at risk of being sent to fight in Ukraine.
Lawyers and civil society groups say they have been overwhelmed with requests for support since President Vladimir Putin announced on Sept. 21 that 300,000 people would be mobilized to boost Russia’s war effort.
Hundreds of thousands have fled to countries such as Kazakhstan, Georgia and Finland. Many remain in Russia, hiding from military recruiters, praying that they will not be drafted or hoping for relief from service.
“We work around the clock,” Sergei Krivenko, who leads a group of about 10 lawyers, told Citizen. Army. Law.
“People are being ripped out of their normal lives,” he said. “This is a mobilization with no time limit during a war. It could take months or years. People may not come back… Leaving the army is next to impossible. The only way is death, injury or prison for disobeying orders.”
The implementation of the mobilization was chaotic. Though billed as hiring those with military experience and required specialties, it often seemed oblivious to individuals’ track record, health, student status, or even age.
Putin acknowledged mistakes last week and said they needed to be corrected. “I’m thinking, for example, of fathers of many children, or people who suffer from chronic diseases, or those who have already passed conscription,” Putin said.
The governor of the far eastern region of Khabarovsk said on Monday that the military commissar there was fired after half of the newly mobilized men were sent home because they did not meet the criteria to be drafted.
‘LEAVE RUSSIA NOW’
Tips for not being mobilized are circulating on social media, along with forms to apply for medical exemptions or become a conscientious objector and instructions on how to complete them.
Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov said on Monday that he and his team gave advice webinars to 10,000 of the company’s employees. His followers on messaging app Telegram have more than tripled in the past two weeks to 466,000.
Stories have spread like wildfire of men who, according to the stated criteria, should be exempted, but have been summoned anyway.
“Those who come to us are in a panic. They do not understand what is happening,” Krivenko said. “They’re calling everyone. And the law allows them to recruit anyone.”
Dmitry Lutsenko, who co-leads a group called Release that offers legal advice and information, said: “The best way to avoid conscription is to leave Russia now.”
The second best option is to hide, he said. “Avoid signing a subpoena…avoid military offices. The legal penalty for not going is a small fine, and I don’t know anyone who has already been fined.”
Kirill, a 26-year-old from southern Russia, said he couldn’t leave his pets behind and therefore went underground, worked for money and didn’t live at the address the military believes is his.
“They can’t take me so easily,” he said.
Lawyer Alexei Tabalov said on Facebook that young people and women asked for help much more often than older men, and the older men who cast their votes were often fatalistic and obedient to authorities.
“At the same time, we see masses of men voluntarily going to military bases,” he said. “I want to scream – why did you go? Run, get out while you still can! But no, they’re standing still waiting. What are they waiting for?”
(Reported by Reuters)