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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Activists Say Police Forced Scores Into Army Service

Police have detained hundreds of young men in the streets or their own homes and shipped them to military recruitment offices, which in turn sent them straight to the army, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday.

The military and police denied Wednesday that forcible conscriptions are continuing to take place. The Human Rights Watch report detailed examples from the past two years.

Anna Neistat, director of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch, told reporters that 14 detainees were interviewed for the report and 50 other cases supplied by the Moscow Soldiers' Mothers Committee and the St. Petersburg Soldiers' Mothers Organization were reviewed.

The 20-page report, titled "Conscription through Detention in the Russian Armed Forces," examines the treatment of young men who were not served draft notices and forcibly brought to recruitment offices. The report said they were often sent to the army within 24 hours of being detained and given no opportunity to mount a challenge, although the law gives draftees that right.

"Their parents sometimes find out about their whereabouts only after they turn up in a military unit. Until then, they call up morgues and hospitals," Neistat said, adding that "hundreds of conscripts" have been subject to such treatment.

Valentina Melnikova, secretary of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, said by telephone that one of the more shocking cases was the detention of a single father who worked as a driver to feed his 7-year-old son. Police picked him up on a Moscow street, and he only returned home several months later after the committee lobbied on his behalf, she said. Kind neighbors took care of the boy during his father's absence.

Neistat said young men who had been forcibly conscripted often avoided being served draft notices because they feared being bullied or mistreated in the army. They also were afraid of not being properly fed in the military or being forced to serve in Chechnya, she said.

Up to 30,000 conscripts dodge the draft every year by avoiding their draft notices, the Human Rights Watch report said, citing an article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Dec. 7, 2001.

Melnikova said that the last large-scale forcible conscription roundup took place in spring 2001. She said her organization had collected 200 cases.

"There have been a few examples of detention at homes in the spring, but we have no reports of the forcible detention of conscripts this fall," Melnikova said.

"But I can't rule out that when servicemen start being delivered to military units soon, the police may again start visiting homes and detaining conscripts," she said.

Ella Polyakova, head of the St. Petersburg Soldiers' Mothers Organization, said at least 500 potential conscripts and their parents visit her office each week, seeking assistance in protect their rights.

She said young men who are being detained by the police "do not know their rights."

During the three months of the fall draft, Moscow recruitment officials expect to interview and examine some 55,000 to 60,000 young men, the city's chief draft commissioner, Vasily Krasnogorsky, said Wednesday.

"The realistic number of those who will end up being drafted in is less than 5,000," Krasnogorsky said.

The rest will be found physically unfit or present papers confirming they cannot be called up for service, he said.

He said he does not know of any roundups.

"What I know is that besides their rights, citizens also have duties that they must carry out," Krasnogorsky told reporters.

Ensuring that a conscript shows up for the draft is the responsibility of the police, he said.

Human Rights Watch representatives said they have been trying to meet with Krasnogorsky for some time. But Krasnogorsky said Wednesday that he knew nothing about the organization or its attempts to contact him.

"Besides, speaking of foreign organizations, I'm not allowed to meet with any unless I have permission from the special services and from the defense minister himself," Krasnogorsky said.

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said roundups are "a distant memory" and no one has been forcefully conscripted in the streets this fall.

"As for detaining at home, only neighborhood policemen can visit conscripts at home and check their documents. No forcible detention will follow," she said.