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Support Russian conscientious objectors
“People here don’t understand how much danger we’re in. Not from the opposing side. But from our own side.”
“You’ve got relatives there. Just refuse,” Sergei recalls telling Stas, who was already an army officer. “But he said he was going. He believed it was right. I told him that he was a zombie. And that, unfortunately, life would prove that.”
Sergei and Stas are not the real names of this father and son. We’ve changed them to protect their identities. Sergei has invited us to his home to tell us their story.
“So off he went to Ukraine. Then I started getting messages from him asking what would happen if he refused to fight.”
Stas told his father about one particular battle.
“He said the [Russian] soldiers had been given no cover; there was no intelligence gathering; no preparation. They’d been ordered to advance, but no one knew what lay ahead.
“But refusing to fight was a difficult decision for him to take. I told him: ‘Better to take it. This is not our war. It’s not a war of liberation.’ He said he would put his refusal in writing. He and several others who’d decided to refuse had their guns taken off them and were put under armed guard.”
Sergei made several trips to the front line to try to secure his son’s release. He bombarded military officials, prosecutors and investigators with appeals for help.
Eventually his efforts paid off. Stas was sent back to Russia. He revealed to his father what had happened to him in detention: how a “different group” of Russian soldiers had tried to force him to fight…. [more at link above]
“International human rights law affirms people’s right, due to principled conviction, to refuse to participate in military conflict, and conscientious objection has a long and rich history. You would think that those resisting this war would be able to find refuge in European countries, but in August, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky asked his Western allies to reject all Russian émigrés. Currently, all non-visa travel from Russia to EU countries is suspended.
As Russian men fled after Putin’s conscription announcement, Latvia closed its border with Russia, and Finland said it was likely going to be tightening its visa policy for Russians.
The Biden administration has said that Russians fleeing Putin’s draft are “welcome” in the US and encouraged them to apply for asylum in the United States. But as far back as last October, before Russia invaded Ukraine, amid tit-for-tat US-Russia tensions, Washington announced it would henceforth only issue visas to Russians through the US Embassy in Warsaw, 750 miles away from Moscow — and continued into fiscal year 2023 its FY2022 global refugee cap of 125,000.
The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) is petitioning European institutions to support the brave war resisters and we need the US to support them as well.”