Russian draft boards may face a large-scale boycott of conscription this spring. In the light of the recent tragedy of Private Andrei Sychev, a number of human rights activists have launched a propaganda campaign aimed at boycotting the conscription. Meanwhile, opinion polls indicate the majority of Russians believe the bullying in the Russian armed forces is a widespread phenomenon and nothing is being done to combat it.
A group of activists of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) have carried out protest actions in the cities of Voronezh and Kaluga. The youngsters sneaked into the draft boards and handcuffed themselves to radiators. They also tossed about leaflets calling for putting an end to conscription. The leaflets also suggested that the son of the Russian Defense Minister Ivanov be sent to Chechnya to serve as a private. The NBP activists are not the only ones who want to cancel compulsory military service. A columnist at Moskowsky Komsomolets newspaper called on the young men to throw away the draft cards and evade the draft. In her column, Kalinina wrote that “taking into account what the army did to the soldier Andrei Sychev, every male of 18 years of age in Russia has the full moral right to dodge the draft by using any legal means and methods. Saying ‘no’ to conscription in today’s army is not an evasion of constitutional duty. On the contrary, is a display of civil maturity.”
Human rights activists also joined the campaign. The leader of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers Valentina Melnikova recommends that conscripts write the following letter to the Russian president, prosecutor general and governor:
"I (name) hereby refuse to take part in the spring conscription of 2006 because I know that I will be subject to beating, humiliation and extortion after arriving in a military unit. I request to regard my refusal to participate in conscription as an action taken in the state of extreme necessity (Article 39 of the Russian Criminal Code) and therefore should not to be regarded as a crime and subject to criminal prosecution. I am ready to be drafted to active military service after the state is able to ensure that my health is not at risk and my personality is respected."
According to Valentina Melnikova, the media reports on Andrei Sychev and the official statistics of the Russian Defense Ministry should be attached to the letter. The statistics show that 53 people died in the Russian armed forces in January 2006. The number includes 14 people who committed suicide. Valentina Melnikova maintains that a well-formulated letter should create good chances for a conscript to win his case in court and stay home, Newsru.com says.
Meanwhile, some Russian lawyers and the military are quite skeptical about prospects for conscripts to win their cases in court. They believe conscripts will lose and will be called up in any case. The lawyer Pavel Astakhov said that an extreme necessity can only occur in “a concrete situation.” Melnikova’s recommendations point to “a fabricated extreme necessity.”
A chief of one of the Moscow draft boards who spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity, said that a court of law would not register a lawsuit of a conscript who broke a deadline for filing an application for alternative civil service. He also said that he had seen the attempts to boycott the draft a few years ago, “the dodgers ended up paying fines and getting suspended prison terms, so they paid their fines first and got drafted in the end.”