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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Draft Dodger Toll Tops 25,000

More than 25,000 young men dodge the draft each year with relative impunity, mainly because there is no provision for alternative service, members of a variety of pacifist organizations said Friday.

"The courts are reluctant to open criminal cases against the draft dodgers," Anton Pchelintsev, a member of the State Duma's group on the freedom of conscience, said. He added that the courts are "unwilling to face the contradiction that currently exists between the law on universal military service and the article in Russia's Constitution which gives people a right to refuse army service on religious or pacifists grounds."

He said fewer than 800 draft evaders were punished in 1994.

But another member of the anti-violence movement, Sergei Sorokin,a lawyer who said he has defended more than 30 draft dodgers, complained that some truly religious people were imprisoned.

Sorokin called for a new definition of "draft evader" and said more than 10 young men were drafted against their will by the local police forces this year in Yaroslavl alone.

Alternative service, which provides for service in hospitals and other social institutions, existed in Russia in the beginning of the century, but was cancelled in 1939.

Pchelintsev, who took an active part in designing the alternative service bill, noted that parliament did not pass the bill last May and said he doubted that it would pass in the new legislative session.