Russians Use Drastic Measures To Avoid Putin’s Military Draft—Including Self-Mutilation

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The Russians have resorted to drastic measures to avoid being drafted to fight in Ukraine, a sign of desperation as President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to revive the flagging invasion push would-be conscripts to flee or secure medical exemptions, by breaking their own arms or legs, while mobilized men freeze their sperm in case they die at the front.

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Important facts

An estimated 400,000 Russians have fled to nearby countries like Kazakhstan, Georgia, Mongolia, as well as the European Union and more distant countries like Turkey since the draft was announced in late September, according to Bloomberg, an exodus that has prompted several neighboring states to welcome Russians with tourist visas.

Refugee Russians sometimes faced day-long queues to cross the border, and rising demand has caused airline ticket prices to skyrocket, particularly to countries that allow Russians visa-free entry, such as Turkey, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates .

Those who could not or did not want to leave Russia sometimes resorted to drastic means to avoid conscription using other, mostly medical, means and Russian search terms such as “how to break an arm”, “how to break an arm at home” or “how to break a leg” in the days after the draft was announced on Google (still used by millions in Russia), indicating a greater than usual interest in the topic.

Cruel videos of men who allegedly broke their arms or legs to avoid being drafted have reportedly surfaced online, including footage of men banging sledgehammers on a friend’s limbs.

A market has also reportedly sprung up in fake medical documents listing chronic illnesses that may bar people from conscription, such as HIV or hepatitis, according to Rest of World.

Some would-be conscripts have reported intentions to seek treatment for the absence of addiction or mental health issues — a well-known technique to evade conscription that has been used for decades — or even plan to allow themselves to be arrested rather than be drafted .

Surprising fact

The number of men trying to freeze semen reportedly rose sharply after Putin announced a partial mobilization. according to to Russian media, quoted by the BBC. Reproductive medicine doctors in Moscow and Yekaterinburg, quoted in a handful of British tabloids, claim they are treating far more patients than usual, many of whom are booking emergency appointments and wanting to skip or expedite the usual steps of preparation and examinations that require a down payment. One clinic in St. Petersburg even told the newspapers it was offering a 10% discount to mobilized men.

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In recent weeks, Moscow has suffered a series of humiliating defeats on the battlefield in Ukraine, losing large numbers of troops and equipment. Putin ordered an immediate “partial mobilization” in September to prop up the stalled invasion and replenish the dwindling workforce. Refusal to serve or desertion is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The mobilization, Russia’s first since World War II, was seen abroad as a sign of desperation and fueled civil unrest at home, with anti-war protests erupting across the country. The state conscripted arrested protesters into the military. The draft comes as Moscow seeks to formally annex captured Ukrainian territories — none of which it fully controls — that it has vowed to defend at all costs, including the use of nuclear weapons.


Russian lawyers and civic groups are overwhelmed by the number of people seeking help to avoid conscription, Reuters reported. Sergei Krivenko, who heads a group of about 10 lawyers called Citizen. Army. Law., told Reuters his team works “round the clock” and noted that once conscripted it was “almost impossible” to leave the army and return to normal life. Pavel Chikov, a human rights lawyer, told the news agency that he and his team have conducted advisory webinars for around 10,000 employees at the company.

What we don’t know

It is not clear how many people Putin wants to appoint. The Kremlin’s official figure puts at least 300,000 men with previous military experience and the necessary skills, recruited from across the country. The draft could reportedly be much larger – up to 1 million people – although the relevant clause in Putin’s mobilization order has been blacked out and the Kremlin has dismissed the claim as a “lie”. In theory, Russian officials claim they have a pool of 25 million reservists to fall back on. Beyond the numbers, there was also much confusion as to who was eligible for conscription, with scores appearing to have been called up for service based on illness, age, student status, lack of military experience, and other factors. Putin himself has acknowledged flaws in the mobilization campaign and urged officials to fix the problem.

Big number

200,000. That’s how many have been drafted into Russia’s armed forces since Putin ordered partial mobilization two weeks ago, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Further reading

“An army of zombies is leading us to hell” (Atlantic)

Putin Ally sends teenage sons to fight in Ukraine – a possible war crime – days after urging use of nuclear weapons (Forbes)

Russian men take the long way to escape mobilization (Reuters)

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