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Belarusian deserter detained in Armenia

12 February 2024
Yaroslav Novikov. Image via RFE/RL.

A Belarusian man who fled his country to avoid conscription faces extradition after being detained in Armenia at Minsk’s request.

Yaroslav Novikov, 24, was arrested after crossing into Armenia on 2 February. He was detained at the request of Minsk, which accused him of evading military service.

RFE/RL reported that Belarus had placed Novikov on a Commonwealth of Independent States wanted list. 

His lawyer, Arayik Papikyan from the Helsinki Association for Human Rights in Armenia, has stated that Novikov had been wanted by Belarus since the summer of 2023, with warrants for his arrest coming out in September.

Novikov, who was living in Georgia, travelled to Armenia to apply for a Bulgarian visa, after his request in Georgia was rejected. He was reportedly advised to reapply for the visa in Belarus.

Papikyan argued that his client’s arrest was illegal since he was detained based on arrest warrants issued by the Belarusian investigator, and not by a Belarusian court.

‘As a lawyer, I know that only the court can choose a preventive measure against a person. In any case, our legislation and Article 5 of the European Convention both say so’, Papikyan told Epress.am

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Papikyan added that he had appealed Noivkov’s detention and that he had since applied for asylum in Armenia.

‘There are serious concerns about his persecution and new accusations arising in case he was handed over to Belarus’, said Papikyan, who cited Novikov’s support of the Belarusian opposition in the 2020 elections as one of the main reasons for his leaving the country.

Papikyan also warned that Novikov could get drafted to fight in Ukraine or face imprisonment for his support of the opposition in Belarus.

Armenia has yet to receive an extradition request from Belarus, but Papikyan speculates that the man could face extradition if he was denied political asylum.

He added that they had appealed to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s office, Belarus’ exiled opposition leader, who expressed their willingness to support Novikov.

In December, Dmitriy Setrakov, a Russian who moved to Armenia to avoid the military draft in his country, was reportedly abducted by Russian military police and detained at the Russian military base in Gyumri.

He was reportedly transferred to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, despite the Armenian authorities claiming to have no knowledge of his detention or transfer, later in December.