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Russian conscripts doing their compulsory service are reportedly being forced to sign military service contracts and for many, while communications between them and their parents has gone dark, leaving parents concerned about the whereabouts of their children after Putin proceeded with the military invasion of Ukraine.
“Mothers are telling us that their sons have been calling them and saying they’re being forced to sign contracts. We believe it’s wrong to force a conscript to become a contract soldier. But how do they force them? We don’t know. The parents who have gotten in touch have told us their sons were just taken by military officers, stamped, and that’s it — now they’re contract soldiers,” said Olga Larkina, director of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers according to a report by Meduza.
Russian law requires a minimum one to three-month waiting period — depending on the soldiers level of education — before a conscript can convert to contract service, but reports indicate that military officials may not be following the standard process and instead are coercing people to sign on the dotted line in a rapid timeline. According to Haaretz, the conscripts are prohibited by law from being sent to the front unless they choose to sign a contract to become career soldiers.
Lawyer Alexander Latynin explained that the process typically takes a minimum of a month and sometimes six months or more due to the large volume of paperwork required.
“This procedure takes at least a month, and sometimes lasts up to three or four. For some servicemen, it even takes six months,” said Latynin. “When they really want to and really need to, then some people, including some officials, will resort to breaking the law.”
Alyona – whose name was changed per her request – is concerned about the whereabouts of her son who was rapidly transferred to a base close to the Ukrainian border.
“He said, ‘there are a lot of us.’ I told him, ‘just don’t sign anything,’ but he already didn’t want to. They’d been trying to convince him [to sign] even when he was back here,” said Alyona. “They tried to convince all of the boys to sign contracts, I’d begged him not to sign. I just managed to tell him that when they give out military IDs, check to see if they gave you a stamp [indicating that you’re a contract soldier], and if they did, find a way to send me a text.”
“I’m panicking — where is my child? I’ve tried calling every phone he’s ever called me from and they’re all turned off. My child said that even the captains’ phones were confiscated,” Alyona noted. “I feel awful, I need for the children not to be there, for the children to be [back in] the places where they were drafted, not in this hell. We have a bunch of relatives from the Ukrainian side. I have nephews there and everything. How will this look? My sister and I have been crying all morning — she from there, and I from here.”
The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers contacted the Russian Defense Ministry about the reports of conscripts being forced into contracts in search of answers but got the runaround from officials.
“They said we would need to call the commanding officer at the military unit where the situation was occurring, that all responsibility for personnel lies with the unit’s commanding officer, but getting in touch with the commanding officer is impossible,” said Larkina.
Maria, whose last name was not provided, said that her last contact with her son was on Feb 22. He has been serving his mandatory military service since last year.
“My son told me he couldn’t say anything, everything was bugged and they were taking people’s phones away. As for himself, he said ‘everything’s fine,’ but what does ‘fine’ mean when you’re not allowed to say anything? And how can everything be fine in a war? I’ve been crying, not eating, just sitting there numbly and watching TV. I don’t understand how the conscripts could be sent to war,” said Maria. “I can’t wait anymore, I feel terrible. We have group chats just for the mothers of boys who are serving. And last week, one mother wrote, ‘Why are they sending conscripts?’ The next day, her son got punished by his commanding officer. How? Did they go into our chat and read it? Everything’s hush-hush, you can’t say anything.”
Social media users had a strong message for Russian President Vladamir Putin, warning that the mothers and fathers weren’t going to stand having their children forced into contract military service.
I told you Putin , Russian mothers and fathers are coming for you.
— Aiing-Tii (@TiiAiing) February 27, 2022
Others found the news unsurprising based on the Russian history of oppression of its own people.
And college students in the US think Russia is a great place to live
— jrb0411 (@jrb707) February 26, 2022
They aren’t treating them humanely. Shocking!
— CAMPBIZZLE (@happycrazytown) February 26, 2022
I feel like we’re watching Putin’s downfall happening in realtime. The inevitable end result of “Strongmen”. The lies and illusions/house of cards is crumbling in the face of reality. Essentially, a front/con never lasts forever. Some just persist longer than others.
— Just A Guy (@RichardMilikin) February 26, 2022
This is nothing new-my great grand father fled Lithuania in 1904 to avoid mandatory conscription in the Russian army. Russia has a long history of oppression-people who pander to Putin are supporting the abuses he perpetrates on Russian and Ukrainian citizens.
— MM (@michele1el67) February 26, 2022
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