FHM funds the rent of a small office for an advice centre in Kazan (Tatarstan), which provides legal and other advice on alternative service for conscientious objectors. The centre also helps in cases where there is an illegal attempt to conscript people who are exempt from military service, and increasingly it provides advice to serving soldiers and their relatives.
Activity in the advice centre is seasonal as it varies with the army conscription schedule, but it can run from 40 to over 100 consultations per month. One group in need of advice is university students: draft commissions sometimes attempt to send them for (illegal) military medical testing, and problems arise because universities no longer produce lists of students moving from undergraduate to graduate programmes. Several court appeals were prepared for students illegally called up.
Another group requiring help are serving soldiers needing a medical discharge, because documents are prepared so slowly. There are also consultations with conscripts’ wives who have small children, but cannot get financial allowances from the government (payments aren’t sent, the paperwork is wrong, etc.).
After the summer 2015 draft call-up season, twelve people in Tatarstan went to serve as alternative servicemen, bringing the total in the region to 32. Some applicants have bureacratic problems, but the centre has been successful in helping more than one client to transfer from military to alternative service despite having missed the application deadline. Almost all the alternative servicemen work in hospitals and post offices. They have not been “exiled” to difficult work in the far east, which is the sort of misinformation that draft boards sometimes put about.
You can read about one young man’s experience of alternative service in this article, from online magazine Russia Beyond the Headlines: http://bit.ly/2bPbvc8
Photo: Publicising the advice centre in Kazan