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Eastern Europe

The Effects Of Russia’s Burgeoning Totalitarianism On Its Military And Economy

Russian Soldiers

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In another push to move Russia closer to full totalitarianism, last week, both houses of Russia’s parliament approved amendments to a law regarding military registration and service, The Bell reported. The amendments will give an electronic summons the same power as traditional call-up papers for service. Parliament also approved further major restrictions on individual constitutional rights, including implementing restrictions on foreign travel, in an effort to prevent people from dodging compulsory military service. These latest amendments indicate that Moscow shows no signs of slowing its aggression not only toward other countries but even its own citizens.

The amendments approved by both houses of Russia’s parliament in less than a week have not only given an electronic summons all the power of traditional military call-up paperwork but will also allow for the creation of a digital database of citizens eligible for military service. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the measure into law Friday evening. The military database will be directly linked to the Gosuslugi portal through which Russians handle day-to-day business with the government. The military commissariats will control the database.

According to an order by the Defense Ministry, the Ministry of Digital Development will oversee the creation of the database, which will pull information on citizens from every ministry including the Interior Ministry, the Tax Service, and even data from employers and educational institutions – no ministry or organization is exempt. Russians will be added to the database without even contacting or visiting an enlistment office. All Russian men will automatically be added to the service register either on their 17th birthday or upon receiving Russian citizenship.

While the law will be effective the moment it is published, Digital Development Minister Maksut Shadayev was quick to attempt to calm nerves by noting that the database would only work “in full” during the fall conscription timeframe. However, Shadayev also said ambiguously that the register would be working to a limited extent right now.

The new law not only applies to conscripts but to everyone who is eligible for military service. The amendments open up everyone eligible for remote enrollment in the military, including women with a military specialty or men over 27 years old who have not yet completed their military service. Due to Russia continuing its mobilization for the Ukraine War, anyone on the list can be called up for military service at any time.

The amendments also allow for those in the database to be called up electronically. Perhaps most disturbing is that the electronic summons is considered served when it appears in a personal account, regardless of whether or not it has been read. The personal account also does not necessarily mean a Gosuslugi account, but also any account or “information system,” several of which are being created in addition to the new database. As a result of the additional systems, now one cannot simply delete their Gosuslugi account to evade the draft.

Also, the summons not only takes effect the moment it hits an individual’s account, but it also bans the person from leaving the country immediately upon its delivery. In an effort to force people to appear at enlistment offices, anyone who fails to appear within 20 days after receiving a summons will be unable to register ownership of property or vehicles, take out a loan, or register as self-employed. Banks will be forced to check the registry before approving loans.

As a result of the invasion of Ukraine, Russia experienced two large waves of mass immigration. The first arrived in March 2022, immediately after the invasion and a second came in September after a large-scale mobilization was announced. While Russian authorities have not provided an exact amount for the number of people who have immigrated, The Bell provided a minimum estimate of 500,000 people. While Russian authorities have claimed that only a few people fled the country, the passage of the severely restrictive amendments indicates that the Kremlin is certainly concerned.

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The new military legislation was approved alarmingly fast. Chief of the main Organizational and Mobilization Directorate of Russia’s Armed Forces, Rear Admiral Vladimir Tsimlyansky, let slip on the eve of the draft that electronic summons would be used to call up eligible citizens. As a result of the faux pas, state media was immediately banned from reporting the Admiral’s statement. An employee of the state media organization told The Bell, “the ban came from the Kremlin.” That same day, the Gosuslugi portal removed the ability to delete an existing account. That removal was later reversed and an option to delete an account was returned.

A “manual” was then circulated by authorities to journalists immediately after the bill was adopted, which told them how to report the new law, citing that it had to do with “eliminating shortcomings in the military registration system.” Despite the Kremlin’s best efforts to conceal the true purpose of the new law, Duma committee head Andrei Kartapolov noted that the law was essential to “deploy mobilization.”

According to two government officials, the law came as a surprise and it is unclear who exactly is behind the new legislation.

“There were no meetings, there was no consideration of a possible third wave of emigration,” one official said.

Meanwhile, 2 sources who are close to the Kremlin told Meduza that Kremlin officials were also unaware of the changes and did not have a part in drafting the new law. The sources are confident that the amendments to the military law came from the Defense Ministry. A federal official has disputed those claims, however, insisting that the bill could not have been passed without the Kremlin’s backing.

“The military does not carry sufficient weight to push through a law that would have such a powerful impact on society and the economy while the country is in special operation mode,” the official said. “Unless there have been some decisive changes in the structure of the regime,” he concluded.

Not only have the changes to law allowed for electronic summons, but they have made it possible for the military to sign conscripts up for a 3-year contract immediately. Previously, the maximum initial contract was only 3 months. There are also now almost zero limitations on the nature of the contract during a mobilization period, meaning that a conscript could be sent immediately “to the zone of the special military operation.”

It has created a loophole for the military to get around Putin’s public promise that conscripts would not be sent to fight in the war zone. While the Russian military has long found ways to force conscripts into contracts, the new law will make military service voluntarily mandatory. At the end of March, Bloomberg reported that according to a source, Russian authorities did not want to institute a second round of mobilization, however, they did plan to recruit 400,000 contract soldiers for the war in Ukraine.

While the law is not expected to have a direct negative impact on the economy, it will likely destabilize it. Investment is being discouraged by anxiety in the business sector and the general public along with an increase in uncertainty. There is also a high risk of a third wave of immigration given the new law. For businesses and individuals alike, the key component in planning is the duration of the war. According to Alexander Isakov with Bloomberg Economics, “If the passage of the law is taken as a signal that [the conflict] will go on longer than expected, then we will see lower consumer confidence and a continued high level of savings.”

More than a million people under the age of 35 left the workforce in 2023, according to official data. Russians between the ages of 25 and 29 were most likely to leave, which research has indicated is the result of an aging demographic and immigration. While the war in Ukraine is not referenced in the research, it is certainly a large factor influencing the labor market.

According to information from leaked intelligence reports, the FSB has estimated that 110,000 people have been killed or wounded in Ukraine. However, U.S. military estimates put Russia’s losses between 189,500 and 223,000 men, 43,000 of whom have been killed. With the war continuing to rage in Ukraine, as injured Russians leave the workforce, there is no one to replace them. In some regions of the country, women have had to step up to fill the roles men have traditionally held.

Not only has Russia now implemented “digital mobilization,” but the government has also been considering imposing a life sentence for treason. At least 17 Russians have been arrested for treason since the beginning of the year, which is a concerning increase given that there were only 20 cases in all of 2022.

Andrei Kolesnikov recently wrote, “This stems from the fact that Putin’s model of government is now in place forever and any betrayal of him – whatever that means in an arbitrary interpretation of their own law – is punishable by eternal imprisonment.”

Not only will those who received electronic summons be banned from leaving the country, but it has also recently come to light that state-run companies and corporations have already begun placing restrictions on leaving the country for their employees and officials. All top officials now, from ministers down to department heads can only travel internationally with the direct permission of Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Such permission is only granted for trips where there is an obvious operational need. Some officials have been required to surrender their passports. It has also been reported that during the New Year holiday, Russian national and regional-level officials were forbidden to leave the country. The FSB has also created a database with a directory of all officials, governors, and state employees who require special permission to travel abroad.

A top Russian government official said of the travel restrictions at the time, “An iron curtain for those associated with the state is… in place.”

While the Kremlin sent every signal and indication possible when Russia first invaded Ukraine that Russian authorities were unconcerned about mass immigration out of Russia, the recent increase in harsh travel restrictions on everyone from senior state officials down to conscripts paints a different picture and one filled with anxiety. While the Kremlin appears hesitant to close Russia’s borders, its recent policies regarding travel abroad are indicative that it is anticipating another round of mass immigration as the war in Ukraine drags on and the situation deteriorates.

Political analyst Ekaterina Shulman said of the changes, “The situation is something of an emergency, which has left the political regime writhing and convulsing. This could lead to transformations that it never even planned.”

As Russia’s war in Ukraine marches forward, it has become increasingly evident that the Kremlin and Russian government are willing to go to great lengths to continue the fighting with its war-torn neighbor, no matter the cost to individual constitutional rights, life, or the well-being of its citizens.

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2 comments

Dano S. April 17, 2023 at 12:11 pm

You call that Totalinarianism? Grab a dictionary, or have a look at Australia, Canada, the U.S., E.U., UK etc. Thanks for the funny article. Russia is winning the military action handily, the economic sanctions against Russia are punishing the EU and other nations instead of Russia. Russia’s economy is doing great, it is growing steadily despite all the sanctions. That’s the real news. Check it out.

Reply
sidematic April 18, 2023 at 2:31 am

How much did the Rothscilds pay the author of this gibberish for this idiotic display of propaganda?

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