Detained Russian protesters face conscription or imprisonment

Detained Russian protesters face conscription or imprisonment


Mikhail Suetin expected to be arrested when he protested the Russian mobilization, but he never imagined that he would be ordered to enlist in the very army he was denouncing.

Protests erupted in Russia after President Vladimir Putin appeared on state television on Wednesday to announce the country’s first mobilization since World War II.

“I was ready for the usual: arrested, taken to the police station, tried in court,” Suetin, 29, who regularly takes part in opposition protests in Moscow, told AFP.

“But to be told, ‘Tomorrow you’re going to war’ … that was a surprise,” he said in a telephone interview.

Independent monitoring group OVD-Info reported that men detained during the protests were issued with draft papers in at least 15 Moscow police stations.

Answering questions from reporters the next morning, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, defended the procedure, saying “it’s not against the law.”

A day before the announcement of the mobilization, the Russian parliament passed a bill to tighten the punishment of those who refuse a military summons or desert.

The bill, which has yet to be signed, provides for prison sentences of between five and 15 years.

– ‘Great difficulties’ –

At the police station, Suetin said he was taken to a room alone and pressured to sign papers inviting him to the military mobilization office the next day.

“Either you sign it and go to war tomorrow, or you’ll be in prison for ten years,” he quotes police officers as a threat.

Suetin, on the advice of his lawyer, refused and was released around 5:00 the next morning.

He was told that the Russian investigative committee investigating serious crimes would be notified and that he was in “great trouble”.

More than 1,300 people were arrested during protests on Wednesday, a surveillance group reported. For those who have answered the call, the future does not look any brighter.

Andrei, who turned 18 last week, was called up – according to papers seen by AFP – after he was arrested during anti-mobilization protests in Moscow.

The student described feeling “numb” after sitting for hours in a police station where officers “threatened” people who wouldn’t sign.

“It was clear that I could not run away … I looked around and decided not to resist … Unfortunately, I signed the paper,” Andrei told AFP by phone, referring to documents confirming that he intends to go to him turn up recruiting office.

– ‘Concerned’ –

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu promised on Wednesday that students would not be called up.

This means that Andrei, who recently started university, should not have been caught up in the recruitment drive.

“As we say, Russia is a land of opportunity,” he joked bitterly.

Andrei decided not to show up for the appointment at the registration office on Thursday.

He says he’s still looking for a lawyer and doesn’t know what to do next.

“I haven’t told my parents yet,” Andrei told AFP.

They would “worry,” he added.

“I’ll probably tell them when I understand better what’s going to happen to me.”

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