KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 19 April 2001

RUSSIA: CHRISTIAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR
IMPRISONED. A 20-year-old Pentecostal Christian, Aleksandr Volkov,
from the city of Novocheboksary in the Volga republic of Chuvashia, has
been imprisoned for six months for refusing to perform military service,
Keston News Service has learned. The Novocheboksary city court found
his Christian convictions �unproven� and sentenced him on 13 March.

RUSSIA: CHRISTIAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR IMPRISONED

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

A 20-year-old Pentecostal Christian, Aleksandr Volkov, from the city of
Novocheboksary in the Volga republic of Chuvashia, has been
imprisoned for six months for refusing to perform military service. The
Novocheboksary city court found his Christian convictions �unproven�
and sentenced him on 13 March.

Aleksandr Volkov is a member of the Christian Evangelical Church
�Christ�s Church of Love and Faith�, to which his mother and elder
brother also belong. He was called up for active military service on 17
March 2000, but submitted a declaration to the call-up commission that
military service was against his convictions and that he had the right to
carry out alternative civilian service, under Article 59 of the Constitution.
However he was refused the option of alternative service.

On 7 August 2000 the Novocheboksary public prosecutor�s office
brought a criminal case against Volkov for his rejection of the summons
to military service. It came to court on 12 March 2001. Since his
imprisonment on 13 March he has been held in investigative solitary
confinement.

Volkov's lawyer, Aleksandr Chugunov of the Slavyansky legal centre,
called the court's verdict 'ignorant'. He told Keston News Service on 3
April: 'By law the public prosecutor's office must provide evidence to the
court of the guilt of the person on trial, and prove that he has no Christian
convictions'. He thought that the judge had at first been inclined to
impose a fine, which is normal in such cases. In March 2000, for
example, a resident of Sverdlovsk region, Oleg Smirnov had been found
guilty under this same article and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to two
months� salary, i.e. 3,000 roubles. Chugunov has appealed to the
Supreme Court of the Chuvash Republic against the decision of the
Novocheboksary city court. According to Aleksandr�s relatives, he was
urged not to appeal, with the incentive of changing the jail sentence to
one of deportation.

Judge Nadezhda Kudryashova told Keston on 5 April that the court
believed that Volkov simply did not want to serve in the army and was
using Christian convictions as his excuse. �He was offered the
opportunity of service with the Ministry for Emergency Situations, where
he could have acted out his Christian convictions by saving people from
collapsed buildings or at sites of disasters. He would not even have had
to carry weapons�, said the judge.

The law on alternative service in Russia has not yet been adopted. Lev
Levinson, adviser to people�s deputy Sergei Kovalev at the State Duma,
told Keston on 5 April that the law has been in its drafting stages for 12
years. Two variations of the law had recently been submitted for
consideration by the government. �The Constitution guarantees the right
to alternative civilian service; it should be an automatic right, but in our
country you have to make an effort to get it�, says Levinson. �According
to the Ministry of Defence, last year 2,000 people availed themselves of
this right. We know of three cases of people being taken into custody as a
result of a rejection by the court. As a rule, the higher courts overturn
these decisions.� (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.