Digest of Movement of Conscientious Objectors Russia

February 2024

Movement of Conscientious Objectors Russia, 29.03.2024

Dear and beloved, hello everyone. This is Artyom Klyga from the Movement of Conscientious Objectors. In February, we closely followed legislative initiatives and the judicial practice of Russian courts. Today in our digest, we will talk about the new maximum age for mobilised soldiers; about the possibility for a partner to marry a deceased serviceman or servicewomen; about changes in the sphere of alternative civilian service and about new restrictions for Russian “foreign agents”. Enjoy your reading!

Authorities want to allow marriage with a person who died in the war

The war between Russia and Ukraine affects not only the most obvious things. In parliament, deputies are planning to legalise the possibility of marrying a deceased serviceman. If a serviceman or servicewomen dies in the war, it will be possible to officially marry him with the condition of cohabitation for at least three years. The criterion for the duration of cohabitation can be reduced to one year if the couple has a child. The draft law aims to enable the person who actually lived with the deceased to receive all necessary benefits and payments, but for some reason did not manage to officially register the marriage. And although some people have called the initiative useful, lawyers have many questions about the procedure for registering such a marriage. The risk of fraud against the relatives of the deceased is also evident when his partner, who never lived with the deceased, claims to be their spouse.

Mobilised to the Russian army will serve until the age of 65 minimum

The Ministry of Defense wants to oblige soldiers to serve in the army until they reach a minimum age of 65. Currently, this age is set at a minimum of 50 years. Accordingly, some mobilised individuals expect to be discharged from the Russian army when they reach this age. However, in October 2023, some military courts began to form the position that the minimum age for service for mobilised individuals and those who have signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense is not 50 years, but 65 years. The courts rely on legislative changes in 2023, which were aimed only at contract servicemen. Without any additional justification, they try to extend this age to mobilised individuals as well. In February 2024, the Russian Ministry of Defense presented a legislative initiative that repeats the established judicial practice. At the moment, it is only possible to leave the Russian army for three reasons: extremely poor health, a criminal conviction by a court, and reaching the maximum age of service.

Conscripts will no longer undergo alternative civilian service in the Ministry of Defense of Russia

The Russian Ministry of Labor has updated the specialties in which alternative civilian service can be performed. Their number has increased from 149 to 224 positions. The number of organisations has expanded from 960 to 1305. The list includes such professions as stableman, lumberjack, disinsector, bulldozer and excavator operators, locksmith, restorer of wooden architecture, design engineer, plasterer, specialists in databases and network technologies, as well as museum attendants.
Despite the expansion of the list, the majority of alternative service personnel traditionally continue to perform the duties of general labourers or cleaners. But there is also a positive change. The Ministry of Defense has been excluded from the list of federal agencies where alternative civilian service can be performed. Previously, despite the fact that it is a military department, they sent individuals to the Ministry of Defense to perform alternative civilian service in civilian positions. This practice raised questions among alternative service personnel because working for a military department often contradicted their anti-war beliefs. In 2023, the Movement of Conscientious Objectors filed appeals to parliamentarians to address this issue. It is gratifying that this problem was eventually resolved.

New restrictions for “foreign agents”

The Russian authorities continue to put pressure on journalists, human rights activists, non-profit organisations, and associations that oppose the war. The main goal is to cut off “foreign agents” from the opportunity to receive funding from Russian citizens in Russia. In February, the State Duma adopted a new bill that prohibits “foreign agents” from advertising citizens or organisations on their resources and from purchasing such advertising themselves.
This initiative will significantly impact journalists and media whose work heavily relied on advertisers willing to cooperate with “foreign agents”. Some major Russian media outlets, which predominantly operate on YouTube, have already announced restructuring, staff layoffs, and reduction of their expenses. Russian authorities continue to assert that “foreign agents” are not limited in their rights.

Thank you for reading!

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