Ukraine war: Russia toughens up draft law to round-up more people for the frontlines

International Politics Building, Penglais Campus

International Politics Building, Penglais Campus

04 July 2024

Writing in The Conversation, Dr Ana Mahon from the Department of International Politics discusses Russia's efforts to close military conscription loopholes:

Russia is introducing laws aimed at closing loopholes used by those wanting to avoid the draft.

Evading the draft has been relatively easy in Russia until now. All those who wanted to avoid military service needed to do was avoid receiving a paper draft notice.

One option was to move without letting the authorities know a current address, so that it couldn’t be delivered. This new legislation closes that loophole as the draft notice will be considered served a week after it has been posted online on a government website.

The failure of the Russian government to share conscription data with border-crossing posts had also been an issue during the 2022 “partial” military mobilisation. This emergency mobilisation drafted 300,000 soldiers to be sent to Ukraine to counteract Russia’s losses on the battlefield.

But Moscow was not able to stop young people who feared being drafted leaving in large numbers. Some sources reported 700,000 people leaving in September 2022 alone. But with the war in Ukraine continuing Moscow intends to stop this exodus from happening again.

What changes?

From November 1 2024, draft notices will also be collated along with other information that the government holds on its citizens, such as tax details, criminal charges or property, so officials can keep a complete profile of that person and what they do, and track their movements more closely.

The most notable change is, however, how draft notices will be served. They will no longer rely on a paper form being delivered to a physical address. From November these will be filed online and will be considered as delivered even if recipients do not have access to the internet or have not seen the notice.

This legal change is likely to affect the second conscription campaign of the year, known in Russia as the autumn draft (osennij prizyv). As the war in Ukraine shows no signs of ending, the huge numbers of people escaping the draft has presented a significant challenge for Moscow. Some estimates put Russia’s losses at almost 900 soldiers a day, with the total quickly approaching half a million lives lost, according to UK government estimates.

Given this, Moscow is determined to increase conscription numbers, and stem the flow of those leaving over its borders to avoid being drafted. Those eligible for the draft are typically men between the ages 18 to 27, except for a few specific circumstances when women in certain professions (doctors, radio and map specialists) can be drafted. (Although the upper age for conscription could be raised to 30 at some point.)

Once the changes have been brought in, border forces will be able to access all of this online information, giving them the power to quickly check if people should be allowed to leave Russia. People who have had a draft notice issued online will be banned from crossing any border.

A wave of departures?

These imminent changes have the potential to prompt a new charge to the border this summer, before the new law is implented in November.

The new system also has potential to allow the Russian government to track its citizens more carefully using this new database. This would make it harder for those attempting to evade the draft to maintain an online presence, have a bank account, or own a car, without the government catching up with them.

Anyone who wants to leave, or dodge the draft, will have to come up with more elaborate ways of evasion than those they might have been used in the past.

Russians might consider the Soviet-style draft evasion approach, when corruption within local authorities and medical institutions allowed people to buy fake disability certificates and other “official” documents that meant they could avoid being conscripted. Corruption in the Russian military is endemic, so new avenues like these may quickly open up.

These changes indicate that Moscow could be preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, despite recent discussions about resuming peace talks. Vladimir Putin has said that Russia is ready to stop the war if Ukraine agrees to the Kremlin’s terms. However, the preparation for the 2024 autumn conscription campaign might indicate that this is not the primary plan, as Moscow continues to make, and adapt, its military planning.The Conversation


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.