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'Like bats out of hell' Many of the draft evaders fleeing Russia for Central Asia have been government workers
In the five weeks since Russia's mobilization drive began, hundreds of thousands of draft-eligible people have fled the country. While the authorities have vowed to grant draft deferments for certain people such as select government officials and IT workers, these promises have not always been enough to keep people in those groups from getting conscripted. According to the independent media outlet Verstka, many government employees have decided not to take their chances: numerous people who work for both the Moscow city government and Russia's federal ministries have fled the country in recent weeks. The majority of them have been fired soon after leaving, but some have flown under the radar and remain on the payroll. In English, Meduza summaries Verstka's findings.
Since Vladimir Putin's September 21 mobilization announcement, numerous employees from both Russia’s federal government and the Moscow city government have fled the country, according to the independent Russian outlet Verstka.
Citing numerous sources from the government, Verstka reported that in some of the Moscow city administration’s departments, as many as 20–30 percent of employees have left Russia. Most of the draft evaders have been programmers, system administrators, and other IT workers. Their sudden absence has created difficulties for other departments, some of which have reportedly “sat idle for days due to the lack of IT specialists, or have been unable to use electronic document management capabilities.”
According to Verstka, many Moscow government employees have not been granted the draft exemptions the authorities promised them. “So they've gotten out of there like bats out of hell. It’s ridiculous: they leave without even gathering their things from their desks at work — without even washing their mugs,” one source told journalists.
Verstka reported that sources also confirmed cases of employees from Russia’s Education Ministry, Digital Development Ministry, and Central Bank fleeing the country. Many employees from organizations that fall under various federal ministries’ purviews have fled as well; as some of them explained to journalists, they were promised exemptions, but it’s not clear when the documents will be issued, and they’re afraid they might be drafted in the meantime. Most of the workers have gone to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
On September 24, an exhibition game between Russia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s football teams was held in Bishkek. Following tradition, along with the [Russian] team, employees from the Russian Football Union’s executive committee went on the trip as well. At least 10 members of the Russian Football Union staff who attended the game abroad decided not to return to Moscow, according to a source familiar with the situation.
At the same time, according to Verstka, the Russian government is taking no pains to keep the now-missing employees on board: most of those who have fled have been fired immediately after leaving. Some have been granted permission to work remotely, but only temporarily — ”until human resources or accounting, for example, discovers it.”
“Our leadership has imposed a total ban on transferring people to remote work right now, to keep them from fleeing. Everyone understands what’s going on; everyone knows who needs vacation time and why. I slipped out under the radar, and I’m going to be here until the bosses notice my absence,” one federal employee told Verska.
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