Staunton, April 27 – Despite the growth of contract service, the decline in the size of the military, and the fall in the number of men the Russian army hopes to draft, Russian parents are still spending “billions of rubles” every year so that their sons can avoid performing military service, an indication that public support for the army is not as high as Moscow claims.
According to the calculations of Aleksey Boyarsky, a “Kommersant-Dengi” journalist, the exact sum is on the order of eight billion rubles (160 million US dollars), a figure so large that it has not only placed real burdens on parents but spawned an entire industry devoted to helping young men avoid the draft (kommersant.ru/doc/2703354).
The journalist telephoned several companies promising to help people avoid military service. He found them by using an Internet search engine, with the words “don’t go” enough to generate as the most popular response “don’t go into the army.” He spoke several times with representatives of the Service for Helping Draftees, a firm with branches throughout Russia.
For fees averaging 150,000 rubles (3,000 US dollars), the firm promised to prepare all the necessary documentation, organize medical checks, and handle legal appeals in order to get a permanent or at least temporary deferment – and to refund the client’s money if it was not successful.
In addition, people in such firms give advice on what potential draftees should do in advance of medical testing to make sure they fail and thus get deferments that way. If all else fails, potential draftees can turn to the courts or give bribes to officers involved in the military draft, including doctors.
But that hardly covers the extent of bribery involving military service, Boyarsky says. In the North Caucasus in particular, many who should be deferred bribe their way into service so that they can work in the police. And many who are drafted pay bribes directly to officers to avoid punishment, including having their terms of service extended.