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Russian military police ‘abduct’ Russian deserter in Armenia

11 December 2023
Dimitriy Setrakov. Image via Vot Tak.

Russian troops stationed in Armenia have been accused of impersonating the Armenian military police in order to abduct a Russian citizen who moved to the country to flee the draft.

On Friday, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor, a local human rights group, stated that Dmitriy Leonidovich Setrakov had been abducted by Russian military police from the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri on 6 or 7 December.

Idite Lesom (‘go through the woods’), a project created to help Russians avoid the draft, also reported Setrakov’s detention in Gyumri on Sunday. They stated that they had helped Setrakov move to Yerevan in late November after he had deserted his military police unit in April.

The group added that Setrakov had been allowed to call his wife and that he had told her he would be held in Armenia for two months before being transferred to Russia.

His wife, Alyona Setrakova, confirmed that she received a call from Setrakov after his alleged abduction. She said that he had told her that his captors approached him claiming they were members of the Armenian military police.

Upon inspecting the telephone number used to call her, she found that the caller’s WhatsApp profile picture was of the letter Z — a military symbol used by the Russian army in their invasion of Ukraine.

Agentstvo, an independent Russian media outlet, claimed that the phone number used to call Setrakov’s wife was that of Vadim Shevchenko, a graduate of the FSB Institute.

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In an interview with Vot Tak, Idite Leson’s founder, Grigory Sverdlin, said that Setrakov was supposed to stay in Yerevan, and that he did not inform the group that he was going to Gyumri.

According to Vot Tak, Setrakov could face five to 10 years in prison if he were to be transferred to Russia and convicted of deserting his unit.

Armenian authorities have remained tight-lipped over the alleged abduction. The Prosecutor’s Office has so far declined to say if they have opened an investigation, telling local media only that they were looking into the reports.

‘This is an attack against the legal system of Armenia’

In an interview with RFE/RL, Artur Sakunts, the head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor, called Setrakov’s alleged abduction an ‘attack against the legal system of Armenia’ and ‘against Armenia as a sovereign state’.

Sakunts called on the General Prosecutor’s Office to press charges against the Russian officers who kidnapped Setrakov and to prevent the former Russian soldier’s transfer to Russia.

Russia stationed military police in its bases in Armenia five years ago to oversee the discipline of the military units stationed in the country.

While the Armenian police have previously detained Russian nationals wanted by Russia for draft evasion or desertion, all were released shortly after, and Armenia has yet to extradite any to Russia.

On Saturday, the Armenian police announced they had arrested a 20-year-old Russian national wanted by Russian law enforcement for draft evasion. Sakunts stated that the man was released after Armenia’s Human Rights Defender intervened in the case.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
Read in Russian on SOVA.News.