It seems that in Belarus, so many young people are trying to avoid military service that the state is forced to take preemptive action. For instance, they intimidate potential draft evaders by holding public trials for those who have already been caught. The effectiveness of this approach remains uncertain, but it appears rather grim – resembling a parody of public trials from Stalinist era.

The essence of the story is as follows: in April 2022, a young Belarusian man (now 23 years old) received and sighned a military draft notice at the Stolin district military enlistment office, requiring him to appear on August 19, 2022, for the conscription process into compulsory military service. In other words, he was summoned to undergo a medical examination followed by sending to the barracks.

However, the young man did not want to serve – instead, he went to Russia. By the way, many draft evaders do the same, but it doesn’t help them at all. It didn’t help the resident of Stolin district either: he stayed in the territory of the Russian Federation until November, and then for some reason returned to his homeland, where he was soon apprehended by law enforcement authorities. Rejoicing at the quick capture of such a “notorious” criminal, investigators charged him with evading the conscription process (part 1 of Article 435 of the Criminal Code of Belarus). The case was handled by the Prosecutor’s Office of Brest Region.

It was decided to make the court session mobile and demonstrative: it took place in April 2023 at the premises of the military enlistment office, and young local residents (referred to as individuals of conscription age in the state-controlled media) along with their parents were summoned for the hearing. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to a fine of 70 base amounts (2590 Belarusian rubles or approximately 760 euros).

It’s hard to say what the real effect of this whole story is. Surely, some of the future conscripts or their parents might have decided that hiding is a safer option, and they should avoid receiving the draft notice from the military enlistment office at all costs. Some may have thought that fighting against the state is futile. And others may have concluded that it’s a rather good way to buy their way out of the army. Paying 2,590 rubles, getting a ridiculous “criminal record”, and then becoming exempt from the draft. In today’s Belarus with its everyday absurdity, this seems like a pretty good option.

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