Possible changes in conscription rules are under discussion at the meeting of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko with permanent members of the Security Council.
“I usually invite you to discuss topical issues of national security. Top on the agenda today is manning of the Armed Forces and other military units. Simply put, this is about the enlistment of our young people in the military service,” Alexander Lukashenko said at the beginning of the meeting.
He recalled that in line with the Belarusian Constitution, defense of the country is an obligation and a sacred duty of each citizen. “Every man should be able to defend his country, his family. And he should do it well. In the past virtually every Belarusian man served in the army. It was prestigious; therefore young men eagerly joined the Armed Forces. However, in the course of years conscripts were granted a number of military service deferments; so now the number of deferments in Belarus is bigger than in any other state, in particular compared with the neighboring states,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The President noted that the consequences of the so-called demographic ‘pitfall’ of the 1990s are getting increasingly pronounced. Belarus will be able to overcome these consequences only by 2025, the President said.
Over the past 10 years the number of conscripts on record has nearly halved. Last year the conscription targets were not met. “It means our young people have not gone through that experience that teaches skills to defend Fatherland, which directly has to do with Belarus’ national security,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that some measures to rectify the situation were already taken. Last year deferments were abolished for several groups of conscripts, including prosecution service employees and forensic experts. “The situation with deferments grew so absurd that deferments were granted even to people working virtually in military-related positions. If this is a law enforcement agency, then its employees should receive at least basic military training in the army. More than that, prosecutors and forensic experts investigate criminal offences related to the military personnel. Such crimes will be hard to investigate, if investigators do not know the military service specifics from the inside,” the President noted.
At the same time, he admitted that the abovementioned measures did not yield the desirable results. 80% of conscripts are exempt from conscription to continue education in higher learning institutions.
The head of state informed that the government drafted a corresponding bill. There are plans to toughen punishment for draft dodgers and to encourage young people to fulfill their military duty.
“Today we will discuss these proposals and take a decision on them. However, we should keep in mind that it will be hard for us to take all the decisions at once. Although the Armed Forces are understaffed, the situation is not critical. This allows us to move step by step towards the ultimate goal,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
In his words, it is important to think over diseases and infirmities exempting from the draft. “The principle is the following: a young man should not serve in the army if he has serious medical exemptions,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.
“If a person cannot perform his military duty, he should never be drafted. We will think of the ways to teach him how to use arms and defend his family outside the military. However, many say that at present we do not recruit people because of minor health concerns, like flat foot. There are many other far-fetched contraindications preventing men from serving in the army. We need to come to grips with it,” the President concluded.