Since February 24, 2022, when the active phase of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine began, thousands of men of conscription age in Belarus, and even those who have already served in the army, have found themselves in a difficult situation. They have to choose between staying in the country and possibly being drawn into the war on the side of the aggressor, or leaving Belarus but becoming a conscientious objector or a deserter at the very least.
But if you carefully study the statistics of departures from Belarus since February 24, which you can find in the Our House article “NO Means NO”: Belarusians leave the country en masse to avoid fighting against Ukraine, then for many the choice is obvious – men are leaving the country in hundreds, if not thousands.
We have already been able to talk to some of the men – conscientious objectors and deserters:
The Our House website “NO Means NO” features all the materials from the campaign of the same name.
Olga Karach and Our House were among the first to tackle the subject of conscription.
Our “NO Means NO” campaign was launched in early March and has received strong support from other international organizations. In early June, an appeal was sent to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, PACE and the European Commission asking for asylum for Russian and Belarusian servicemen who have evaded military service and participation in military actions in Ukraine or have defected. Our House was the only organization among the signatories of the appeal which represents Belarus.
One of the aims of the “NO Means NO” campaign run by ICCI “Our House” is precisely to support our Belarusian men in this difficult period, to support them in making the right choice for peace and justice. Our House also aims to inform the international community about the real situation in the Belarusian army.
Today we present a monitoring of the military conscription situation in Belarus between February and June 2022. It is worth noting the fact that the Lukashenko regime started some actions much earlier than February 24.
On February 9, 2022, Alexander Lukashenka signed Decree No. 34 on retirement and conscription into the reserve military service. The decree provides for conscription in February-May 2022 of men who will have turned 18 by the draft day and who are not entitled to deferment of military service. It was also planned to call up first-year students of agricultural universities of Belarus who had the right to deferment of the draft for further education but expressed a desire to serve in the reserve.
On February 19, 2022, a serviceman was wounded as a result of a breach of arms regulations at a military unit of Grodno garrison.
On February 24, 2022, the Ministry of Defence announced that reserve officers will be called up for military service every year in the first half of the year. Up to 150 officers are to be conscripted in 2022. By comparison, up to 100 reserve officers will be called up in 2021, up to 100 reserve officers in 2020 and up to 100 reserve officers in 2019.
On February 28, 2022, Galina Chigrinova, chairman of the Republican Committee of the Belarusian Public Organization of Soldiers’ Mothers, said there are no Belarusian soldiers in Ukraine.
On March 1, 2022, mothers of servicemen serving in the 120th separate guards mechanized brigade in Uruchcha (Minsk) visited the unit.
On March 1-8, 2022, the Ministry of Defence congratulated mothers whose sons died in the army on International Women’s Day.
On March 9, 2022, the Ministry of Defence announced a mass mailing of “fake summonses” to young men by unknown people to “scare citizens into mobilizing for the army”, but denied any involvement.
From April 4 till April 15, 2022 a comprehensive inspection of the military commissariats in the Minsk region was carried out. All the military commissariats of the region were inspected as regards mobilization readiness, recruitment and ideological work, as well as day-to-day activities.
On April 7, 2022, the Ministry of Defence launched a propaganda campaign “It’s cool to defend your country”.
On April 25, 2022, the dispatch of citizens of the Republic of Belarus called up for compulsory military service to formations and military units began. Some 1,000 conscripts were sent to the troops on the first day of deployment.
On April 25, 2022, the Ministry of Defence announced that about 43,000 young men are to be called up for military service this spring, in accordance with the law. More than 13,000 deferments have been granted, most of which – more than 87% – are deferments for continuing education.
For reference: this figure is not much different from previous drafts, in 2019, about 40,000 conscripts received summonses, more than 20,000 deferments were granted, most of which (more than 80%) are deferments to continue education. About 10,000 guys were sent to the armed forces. The situation was similar in 2020, when a total of about 40 thousand conscripts were called up to serve in the military, of whom about 10,000 conscripts were sent to serve in the army.
On April 25, 2022, the defence ministry said that about 200 people were to be sent to serve in the reserves.
On April 27, 2022, 200 young men joined the ranks of the 72nd United Training Centre in Borisov.
On April 28, 2022, the Central House of Officers honoured conscripts who have achieved the best results in their service. Soldiers’ mothers were invited to the celebration.
On May 4, 2022, the Armed Forces of Belarus began a sudden inspection of the reaction forces, during which the military units and subunits were to work on their combat readiness, march to the designated areas and perform training and combat missions.
On May 5, 2022, the training camp of the reserve military units of the Minsk district under the leadership of the Chairman of the Minsk district executive committee was launched.
On May 10, 2022, the executive committees of Brest and Grodno Regions are carrying out the training exercises of the territorial troops of Kobrin and Lidsk Districts, respectively. About 430 people are to be called up for military training from the reserve.
On May 21, 2022, over 3,000 enlisted men will take the military oath of allegiance for compulsory military service and service in the reserves.
On May 23, 2022, the next phase of testing the response force began in the Armed Forces.
On May 23, 2022, the Ministry of Defense announced an official state tender – an auction for the purchase of 20,000 metal badges with the abbreviation “Belarusian Armed Forces” to identify the bodies of the dead.
The auction eventually failed, as you can read about in the Our House article.
On May 26, 2022, a soldier of a military unit voluntarily left the military unit for ideological reasons and left in the direction of the Belarusian-Lithuanian border with a military weapon and in uniform. At the moment this ideological deserter is in Lithuania, he is under the guardianship of two Belarusian organizations — “Our House” and “Dapamoga”.
On May 28, 2022, mothers of soldiers from one of the battalions of special operations forces visited their sons in the area where they have been sent on training and combat missions.
On June 1, 2022, the 120th Air Defence Missile Brigade began training with reserve engineering officers.
On June 7, 2022, combat readiness exercises began in the Armed Forces of Belarus. Combat readiness classes are held after the regular call-up to military service and mastering of the basic military training programme by the new recruits. Soldiers train with different units, military units and military administration on the organised implementation of activities for conversion from peacetime to wartime.
On June 20, 2022, Belarus will resume its participation in international arms control treaties. This implies the arrival of attaches from other countries for the audit, which was also reported by the Ministry of Defence. A section of the border with Ukraine falls under the audit.
On June 22, 2022, mobilization exercises with the military commissariats of the Gomel region will be held from June 22 to July 1.
On June 22, 2022, Belarus started deploying wooden tanks on the border with Ukraine.
“In order to carry out operational camouflage measures and demonstrate their presence, units of the Belarusian Armed Forces are placing wooden moults of tanks in the areas bordering Ukraine,” Defence Ministry spokesman Alexander Motuzyanik said.
On June 24, 2022, Ammunition started being exported from Belarus to Russia. “Belaruski Hayun” reported about the loading of ammunition into 100 covered wagons for the transportation of explosive materials, which were leased from BelZhD by the Belarus Military Communications Department and the Central Administration of Military Communications of the Russian Ministry of Defence. Admittedly, the reports of this publicist should be treated with caution (Sergei Kolotsei’s story).
On June 28, 2022, Belarus concentrated about six battalions of its army near Ukraine and is reinforcing the border area. The Belarusian Armed Forces are also attempting to conduct aerial reconnaissance.
On June 30, 2022, the Belarusian regime is exploring the possibility of a covert mobilisation of the population. New dates have emerged. A military training camp will be held from June 28 to July 16 in the Gomel Region of the Republic of Belarus.
Unfortunately, according to many experts, the war in Ukraine is becoming protracted. And the Belarusians are trying harder and harder to be drawn into the war on the part of the aggressor. Our House is convinced that the world community must clearly understand – Belarus is occupied by Russia, and our citizens inside the country are subjected to unthinkable repressions. But Belarusians do their best to support fraternal Ukraine – our volunteers and fighters on the front line and on the home front are fighting shoulder to shoulder for YOUR and OUR FREEDOM!