Religious conscientious objectors and the war in Ukraine

HRWF (19.12.2022) – On 30 November 2022, a Russian court ruled as illegal the decision to call up a Protestant draftee for military service under cover of mobilization due to the said draftee’s implementing an Alternative Civilian Service (ACS) in 2019-2021.


This decision is very important for hundreds of young Jehovah’s Witnesses who have performed an alternative civilian service for two years in the past. Their lawyers can use this court decision if any of them are suddenly mobilized.


The case of Pavel Mushumansky, an Evangelical believer


HRWF with Sova Center (19.12.2022) – On 30 November 2022, the Gatchina City Court of the Leningrad Region declared illegal the decision to recruit Pavel Mushumansky, who had previously carried out an alternative civilian service instead of military service.


In 2019, Mushumansky was called up for military service and wrote an application for the ACS (Alternative Civilian Service), as he is an Evangelical Christian and his beliefs do not allow him to take up arms.

After the announcement of the mobilization, the young man was summoned and sent to a military unit. He appealed to the court, which took interim measures suspending the decision to mobilize him until the case is considered on the merits.

Having considered the case, the court declared illegal the decision to call up Mushumansky for military service under mobilization due to the previous implementation of the ACS (2019-2021) by the conscript.

Now the order to mobilize Mushumansky has been canceled.


Mushumansky’s defense asked the Gatchina Court to apply to the Constitutional Court for clarification of the situation, since, as noted in their petition, some provisions of the Mobilization Law do not comply with the Constitution. In particular, paragraphs 2-4 of Article 17 states that the state may mobilize citizens who are in reserve and do not have the right to deferral, but neither the passage of the ACS nor religion are mentioned as grounds for exclusion. Lawyers Alexander Peredruk and Arseny Levinson believe that the constitutional right to alternative civilian service should be preserved in case of mobilization.


A group of Russian lawyers (Advokatskaya Ulitsa) analyzed around 350 court decisions from 2021 to the beginning of 2022 concerning conscientious objection issues. It appears that about 10-12% of the cases were concluded in favor of draftees. In the practice of Advokatskaya Ulitsa, it is almost half of the cases. If a draftee loses a trial, it is not the end, they say, because it is possible to apply for ACS again in the next draft.





The case of Kirill Berezin, a believer of an unidentified religious community


HRWF with Sova Center (19.12.2022) – For a believer of St. Petersburg, two courts refused to apply the ACS (Alternative Civilian Service) instead of military mobilization service, but in part agreed to give him a job without the use of weapons.


On 29 November, the St. Petersburg City Court rejected the application of Kirill Berezin to replace military service by an alternative civilian service on the ground that it was contradicting his religious beliefs. Late in the evening, he was taken to a military unit located in Kamenka in the Leningrad region.


His request was first dismissed by the Nevsky District Court.


Berezin was called up for mobilization and sent to the military unit in Belgorod. Because of an attempt through the court to obtain a transfer to the ACS, he had a conflict with the commander who threatened him. He arbitrarily left the unit, but immediately pleaded guilty.


The court refused to transfer Berezin to the ACS but according to his lawyer Nikifor Ivanov, the commander of the training unit near St. Petersburg agreed to provide him with a job that does not require carrying weapons.

Berezin is an orphan in whose care is his elderly grandmother.

Recall that the Gatchina City Court for the first time overturned the decision to mobilise a believer who had previously opted for the ACS.




A research by Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF)

Photo: Author: Marylin Nieves. Credit: Getty Images.

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website