Thursday, February 26, 2015

The 4th Media » The Draft Dodgers of Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine — Roman has been dodging the draft for almost a month now.

A longtime political activist and accountant in Lviv, in western Ukraine, he no longer lives where he’s registered at his parents’ house in a small village outside the city, so he wasn’t there when the local draft board tried to serve him notice on Jan. 16. His father refused to sign at first; he relented after the head of the village threatened to call the police.

But Roman, 24, who declined to give his last name for fear of being tracked down, never showed up for the required medical examination.

“I am against every war, but especially this war, because it’s meaningless,” said Roman, who has been staying in an apartment in Lviv that belongs to his wife’s relatives. “I think this conflict was created artificially. The Ukrainian mass media helped this along by spreading this patriotic hysteria.”

Desperate for manpower in its standoff with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, which has lasted some 10 months and killed at least 5,600, the Ukrainian military early this year reinstituted a general draft, giving itself the power to conscript young men between the ages of 20 and 27.

But a huge number of Ukrainians, like Roman, are reportedly avoiding service, either because they’re disturbed by the prospect of fighting their fellow countrymen in the rebel ranks, are against the war in principle, or because they are simply afraid to go.

Although no exact figures on the number of those avoiding conscription are available, it could be as many as tens of thousands: The military said in September that during partial mobilizations in 13 regions in 2014, 85,792 of those summoned didn’t report to their draft offices and 9,969 were proven to be illegally avoiding service.

Now young men with views like Roman’s are on the run as the government tries to stem a rash of reported draft dodging and is cracking down on anti-war sentiments. Last week, high-profile journalist Ruslan Kotsaba was detained on charges of treason and espionage after he spoke out against mobilization.

Days later, President Petro Poroshenko announced that the security service had “detained 19 active critics of mobilization” for their “anti-Ukrainian activity.” New regulations reportedly in the works could soon prevent those eligible from service for going abroad or even leaving their home regions without permission.

Complete story at - The 4th Media » The Draft Dodgers of Ukraine

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