Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ukraine Men Who Refuse to Be Cannon Fodder for War in the East - HunterNews

A look at some of Ukraine men who have decided they won’t respond to draft notices and their reasons for doing so

We were fighting for autonomy, for the right to live and work in our own region. When the army came, they just bombarded us for two months in a row,” Andrey said. “And now I’m supposed to go and fight for them? I don’t think so.”

As the country’s eastern conflict drags into a second year, Ukraine’s military leaders are trying to learn from past mistakes. They are trying to be better trained and prepared, because no one knows when the warm weather might push this frozen conflict with pro-Russian separatists into all-out war again. And they are calling up the able-bodied men of Ukraine in droves to turn the military that had only 6,000 battle-ready troops before the start of this conflict into a standing force a quarter-million strong.

But not everyone is heeding the call to arms.

“I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t respond to the order,” said Igor, a 25-year-old worker with a nongovernmental organization within Kiev, who received a draft summons in February. “I am not at all interested in participating in such a conflict. They should have been acting much more effectively to have fewer victims — I don’t want to end up on the victim list myself.”

The prospective soldiers in this article spoke on the condition that their last names be withheld because of the risk of penalties if they were to be identified as draft dodgers.

Igor is, by most measures, a shoo-in for the service. He’s a reserve officer, a radio specialist, and he participated in the 2013-2014 protests on Kiev’s Independence Square. But between one-third and one-half of the more than 6,000 deaths in the Ukrainian conflict were in the military, and Igor cites systemic problems — such as draft commanders who ask for bribes, and commanders, including the president, who maintain Russian business ties while asking soldiers to die for Ukraine — as reasons why he and many others cannot bring themselves to serve.

“We do have some problems in the mobilization,” acknowledged military spokesman Vladislav Seleznev, when asked about cases like Igor’s. “That’s why we are trying to strike a balance: From one side, the government provides benefits to those defending the country; from the other, there are very harsh criminal penalties for draft dodgers.”

Rank-and-file soldiers can make upwards of $200 a month, with commanders eligible for far more. But those who shirk the call to duty — or go AWOL, as about 13,000 have — risk fines and years of jail time. In one recent case, a journalist speaking out publicly against the draft was charged with treason.

Complete story at - Ukraine Men Who Refuse to Be Cannon Fodder for War in the East - HunterNews

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