The law provides for electronic military summonses with bans on draftees leaving the country, making it possible to quietly sweep thousands more men to fight — even as the Kremlin denies plans for a controversial new movement.
The State Duma, which is the lower house, approved the law with only one abstention. The upper house, the Federation Council, is expected to adopt it on Wednesday, and send it to Putin for his approval, which is widely expected.
Last year’s chaotic mobilization – in which military officers were obliged to physically hand out paper notices – created scenes of young men being grabbed from the streets and in subway stations, or wrestled with land in shopping malls. In some cases, passers-by filmed the men fleeing the military officers.
Under the new rules, electronic summons will be issued to conscripts under Russia’s compulsory military service for men ages 18 to 27, but potentially also to members of the Russian military reserve and others. Under Russian law, conscripts must not be deployed to Ukraine, however, complaints have emerged that in some cases they were sent there and killed in action.
Andrei Kartopolov, head of the State Duma’s defense committee, announced heavy penalties for those who do not respond to electronic summons, including potential bans on driving, registering a company, working as an individual working in themselves, obtaining credit or loans, selling apartments, buying property or securing social benefits. These penalties could apply to thousands of men who are already out of the country.
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The electronic summons will be issued through the government services portal, Gosuslugi, which is used for all forms of payments and state services including taxes, passports, housing services, social benefits, transport documents , medical appointments, employee insurance and countless other things.
Under the law, personal data of conscripts including identity documents, personal tax numbers, driver’s license details, telephone numbers and other information will be transferred by Gosuslugi to the enlistment offices of the military. Universities, business employers, hospitals and clinics, government ministries, law enforcement agencies, the electoral commission and the tax authority are also required to send data to the military.
Keen by the Kremlin to avoid unpopular mobilization measures, the new rules highlight Russia’s need for more military personnel, after an ineffective winter offensive gained little ground despite high casualties, and ahead of an expected new Ukrainian counter-offensive in the future.
As the Kremlin prepares the Russians for a long war, the need to continue rebuilding Russia’s depleted military units could last for years.
Russia’s Defense Ministry recently recruited hundreds of prisoners on 18-month contracts to fight in the war, according to Russia Behind Bars, a prisoners’ rights group, after barring the mercenary group Wagner from in recruiting in prisons.
The military also offers Russian passports to foreigners who join the Russian armed forces and runs a volunteer recruitment campaign.
In December, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to increase the size of Russia’s military by 30 percent to 1.5 million soldiers, including 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the new law was “absolutely necessary” but added that it was not connected to mobilizing more Russian men to fight in the war.
“We need to improve and modernize the military accounting system,” Peskov said.
However, Putin’s written mobilization order was never revoked and legally remains in effect.
Last year’s mobilization sparked outrage and public protests, with many conscripts taken from Russia’s poorest regions, while the privileged children of officials such as Peskov and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said no. they will fight in Ukraine, when contacting members of the group of detainees. opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
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Russian political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in a recent analysis that the Kremlin’s claim that it is fighting the West, not Ukraine, has created a “people’s war,” in which citizens are expected to risk their lives for victory and critics of the war or the Kremlin are labeled traitors.
The goal of defeating the West – like the goal of building communism during the Soviet era – recedes into the future, he continued. “The specific parameters of what such success looks like or how it can be achieved remain completely unclear, but the rest of eternity may be spent moving toward that horizon,” Kolesnikov wrote.
The new measures follow a series of denials from Russian officials that subpoenas will be issued through the state services portal.
Once an electronic summons is issued, a citizen is bound by it until his military duty is discharged.
The deputy chairman of the Duma’s defense committee, Yuri Shvytkin, told Russian media that conscripts who deleted their accounts on the state services website would be considered draft dodgers and would face arrest and punishment .
“This is just one of the goals, to reduce the percentage of dodgers,” he told the Russian media outlet Ura.ru.
The bar on leaving the country takes effect from the moment the draft notice is sent electronically. Military draft offices can register draftees in the military in their absence, eliminating the current practice where conscripts and draftees appear in person to sign forms and undergo medical examinations.
The new measures come with mobilized soldiers from regions across Russia posting dozens of videos to Russian media complaining that they were sent to slaughter in near-suicidal attacks on positions of Ukrainians without adequate training, weapons or equipment, a problem that haunted Russia throughout the war.
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State Duma member Andrei Lugovoi, one of the bill’s developers, told Telegram that problems during last year’s mobilization proved the need for a better way of calling men to in military duty.
“There are too many complaints about military registration and enlistment offices, people are wrongly mobilized, and those who are able to hide under the pretext of an unreceived summons,” he said. The bill allows the military to “put things in order” and “remove any inconsistencies or wrongful actions in the future.”
The move to bar the sale of real estate makes it harder for conscription evaders to flee the country without losing assets. It also means that those who fled Russia last year to avoid the conflict in Ukraine will not be able to cash out their Russian property.
Although conscripts should not be assigned to combat zones, including Ukraine, those who complete their compulsory military service are under intense pressure from superiors to sign military contracts making them eligible for front deployment, according to Russian independent media interviews with mothers. of conscripts.
The war is taking a toll on Russia’s economy, decimating the country’s youth workforce.
Last year’s combination of migrants fleeing Russia and military conscription led to a sharp drop in the number of Russian workers younger than 35, down 1.3 million workers from 22.83 million, including most men, according to a Russian state statistics study. published on Tuesday in the RBC newspaper. The decline was most pronounced among workers aged 25 to 29, which fell by 724,000 to 7.2 million workers.
Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.
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