On May 11, Alexander Lukashenko signed Law No. 268-Z “On Amendments to Laws” which was then published on the National Legal Internet Portal on May 16. It affects many people in our country, but one of its articles brings changes to the law “On Military Obligation and Military Service.” It restricts the right to deferment for students studying abroad. Now, young Belarusians who managed to enroll in universities in other countries will be forced either to return to Belarus to fulfill their mandatory military service without any deferments or to seek political asylum in another country on the grounds of being conscientious objectors.

However, some students will still have the opportunity to “defer” their military service – those students who are studying in fields related to republican bodies of state administration (state organizations) as part of the implementation of state programs. Most likely, this refers to students who have gone to study in Russian universities.

If a young person is already studying abroad and has been granted a deferment, it remains valid until the grounds for it are no longer applicable. Loss of grounds can occur either through expulsion or completion of studies. Additionally, students who enrolled in foreign universities in 2022 before turning 18 automatically receive a deferment.

The updated law also establishes the procedure for granting deferment from compulsory military service or service in the reserve to those young individuals who are already studying abroad at the time of the document’s publication but enrolled in full-time education at a university before turning 18 years old. They will not be eligible for a subsequent deferment. However, removal from military registration can only be granted to those young men who have permanently moved abroad, in bureaucratic terms, those who have “obtained permanent residence (registered permanent residence) outside the Republic of Belarus”. The changes to the law came into force after their official publication, i.e. starting from May 17, 2023.

Currently, the military enlistment offices are not providing journalists with much commentary. They say that military commissioners still need to understand the new legislative norms and receive clarifications from the legal department of the Ministry of Defense. However, they generally agree on one thing: if a young person is enrolled in a foreign university on September 1, 2023, he will already fall under the law and will not receive a deferment from military service.

Moreover, this applies to Russian universities as well, which is quite understandable. In recent years, admission to various institutions in Russia has become very popular among young Belarusians who want to leave Belarus quickly but do not know foreign languages or simply do not have the opportunity to go West. However, there is a loophole here as well. A young people may receive a deferment if they enroll in a Russian university on a budgetary basis through the framework of Russian-Belarusian cooperation, under the quota allocated for foreign citizens. However, the details of this matter have not been specified yet, and clarifications are expected from the Ministry of Education of Belarus.

Our House opposes such innovations in Belarusian legislation and considers this law as a deterioration of the situation for young conscripts who want to study and hold books in their hands, rather than firearms.