Russia raises the age of conscription to 30. What exactly does this mean and how will it affect Russians in their 30s? Are their relatives worried?
On January 12, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin in principle supports raising the age limit for joining the army to 30. Previously, the head of the Defense Committee in the Duma, Andrey Kartapolov, stated that from April 1, conscripts will enter the barracks under the new scheme, and initially this will be done on a “mixed system” – men between the ages of 18 and 30 will receive call-ups. How is this met and how are potential recruits and their loved ones expected to react? “Deutsche Welle” talks with the human rights activist and secretary of the Union of Committees of Military Mothers Valentina Melnikova.
DV: Is the change in the conscription age in Russia a consequence of the problems with conscripts after the announced mobilization?
Valentina Melnikova: The idea launched by Shoigu (Minister of Defense of Russia – ed.) was very strange. It is understandable why the increase in the size of the army to 1.5 million people is requested. But why change the enlistment age when the contract recruitment program is going well?
However, the law is very clear, the age is exactly stated there. If they make changes, how will they do it? We had such a situation in 1995, when conscripts who were drafted for a year served for a year and a half. Then they immediately submitted the changed term for conscription to the State Duma and everyone remained to serve. How they will act now is not very clear. And what does “up to 30 years” mean? I want to remind you that at 27 years of age, male citizens who are registered with the military receive their military cards or certificates and go into the reserve. I don’t understand how it is possible to restore them to the status of conscripts now through the conscription law.
In fact, if any amendment to raise the upper age limit is introduced within two months, then it will appear that everyone who has reached the age of 27 from 1 January to 15 July 2023 will fall into the group in question with the raising of the age limit. But everyone else will now be substitutes. Yes, they will still be subject to mobilization, but it is unrealistic to return them to service.
DV: So even with this composition of the State Duma, it will be quite difficult to find a way to “remove people” from the reserve?
Valentina Melnikova: I have no idea how they will shape it so that the innovation can be implemented from April 1. Because there are many other factors. Let’s assume those 27-year-olds end up among the spring draft picks. But they also have options for exemption from military service – for health reasons, if the conscript has three children or a scientific degree. Unfortunately, no one provided demographic calculations, but I don’t think these 27-year-old men are enough to increase the army by another half a million men.
DV: We have seen that tens of thousands of people are being released from prisons, and there is also talk of some secret decrees for their pardon. No one questions how legal this all is. But it seems that the spring recruitment will also include many criminals.
Valentina Melnikova: And last fall, soldiers were recruited from conscripts and mobilized. And in 2019 they toured the regions. In general, this seems to be an old, common practice of the military districts: taking people out of their houses at 6 o’clock in the morning, lurking at the entrances of houses, catching people in the subway, on the street, on the train. I don’t believe they will come up with anything new now. Of course the law may not be followed as it is regularly broken against everyone. But that doesn’t do much in this particular case. Let’s cynically say that even if everyone calls us to fight, the problem for the state remains. Because Putin has sworn that conscripts will not take part in hostilities. And so far, that promise appears to be being kept.
DV: As a public organization, do you have information or feedback from conscripts or their relatives about how they react to all this?
Valentina Melnikova: Unfortunately, this does not cause any alarm or concern among the population. It seems that until it’s seared under his ass, it won’t budge. From the announcement of this by the Minister of Defense until today, no one has shown interest in the topic and has not asked themselves “Does it concern me?”. In our organization, this worries us. When something happens, everyone runs to us at the Military Mothers Committee. And now they show complete disinterest in the plans to raise the conscription age.