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Russia to close military conscription loopholes and ban draftees fleeing the country

Moscow – Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, voted on Tuesday in favour of a bill to change its military conscription law by creating a digital conscription notice system which could bar men from leaving Russia as Moscow’s Ukraine campaign stretches into a second year.

Under the legislation, a draftee would be banned from travelling abroad and would have to report to an enlistment office once electronic call-up papers are received.

Currently, draft notices have to be delivered in person in the country, and many Russian men have managed to dodge the draft notices by refusing to pick up their enlistment orders and fleeing abroad.

The State Duma, approved the legislation on second and third readings.

The bill would next have to be backed by senators and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.

The proposed changes come months after Putin ordered in September a “partial” military call-up to boost regular troops fighting in Ukraine in what has become the first military mobilisation in Russia since World War II.

Hundreds of thousands of men have been drafted, while tens of thousands more have fled the country.

Russian conscripts are pictured at a railway station in Sevastopol before leaving to serve in Crimea, on November 9, 2022. Male citizens of the Russian Federation, aged 18 to 27, who had not previously completed military service were drafted in the autumn draft. Picture: EPA-EFE/STRINGER

The changes to the legislation will make dodging the draft much more difficult.

Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is mandatory in Russia, with conscription carried out twice a year.

Andrei Kartapolov, chairman of the lower house defence committee, said before the vote that the new rules would apply not only to young conscripts but all men liable for military service.

“The draft notice is considered received from the moment it is posted in the personal account of a person liable for military service,” Kartapolov said in televised remarks.

Russian citizens that are subject to conscription will be banned from leaving the country starting from the day they receive a conscription notice and until they appear at the military registration and enlistment office, according to an amendments bill seen by Sputnik on Tuesday.

“Citizens who are subject to conscription for military service and have received a conscription notice from the military commissariat, starting from the day when such a notice is considered to have been received, are prohibited from leaving Russia. This restriction is valid until the fulfilment of the obligation to appear at the military commissariat,” the document said.

Enlistment of citizens eligible for military service in the reserve of the armed forces can be carried out without personal attendance, according to the document.

The conscription notice will be considered as served seven days after its listing in the relevant register, unless the notice was served by other means, according to the amendments bill.

The notices may be sent to citizens in writing, in which case they must be signed; they may also be sent by registered mail with notification of receipt, as well as in e-form. If an e-notice is sent, it is considered served when posted on the personal online account, the document added.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied plans to conduct a second wave of mobilisation, saying the new amendments were needed to “perfect and modernise” the country’s military call-up system.

“This work is absolutely necessary,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

He also said the Kremlin did not expect the legislation to spark fresh panic and more men to flee the country.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “Because this is not related to the mobilisation.”

AFP, Reuters and Sputnik

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