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Second Russian deserter ‘abducted’ by Russian military police in Armenia

10 April 2024
The Russian military base in Gyumri. Photo: The Moscow Times

A Russian deserter seeking refuge in Armenia has allegedly been kidnapped by Russian troops in Gyumri.

On Tuesday, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor, a local rights group, reported that Anatoly Nikolayevich Shchetin was kidnapped by Russian military police based in Gyumri. 

The group claimed that Shchetin was being held in Russia’s 102nd military base in the city, adding that they had ‘reliable information’ that he was being prepared for transfer to Russia.

The group reported that Shchetin was wanted in Russia for fleeing the draft.

Shchetin is the second Russian national to have reportedly been kidnapped by Russian military police from Gyumri. Dmitriy Setrakov, another Russian fleeing the draft, was reportedly abducted in December and transferred to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

Ani Chatinyan, a lawyer representing Shchetin, told RFE/RL that he was abducted on Monday. She said he had fled Russia after refusing to fight in Ukraine.

Chatinyan accused Russia of violating Armenia’s legislation by kidnapping Shchetin in Armenian territory.

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In their statement, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly called on the Armenian authorities to ‘immediately take measures’ to secure Shchetin’s release and prevent his transfer to Russia, as well as to ‘prosecute’ his kidnappers.

On Tuesday, Armenia’s General Prosecutor’s Office told OC Media that they had received an application from the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and were acting ‘according to established procedures’.

Following Setrakov’s reported kidnapping and transfer to Russia, Armenian authorities claimed to have no knowledge about his abduction.

Asked about Setrakov’s case in February, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told France 24 that Setrakov’s abduction ‘greatly worried’ Yerevan.

‘[We] are also investigating that case, and if it turns out that everything is as you say, it will of course also lead to certain consequences, because, of course, we cannot tolerate illegal actions on the territory of our country’, said Pashinyan.

Russians and Belarusians at risk in Armenia

As news of Shchetin’s abduction emerged, SOTAvision, a news outlet covering human rights violations and political persecution in Russia, reported that another Russian émigré in Armenia had been stopped on Tuesday evening by two unidentified men in Gyumri.

The two men reportedly introduced themselves as employees of the Prosecutor’s Office, and tried to take the Russian man to the 102nd military base in Gyumri.

They reported that the two men eventually left the Russian man alone after a neighbour came to his assistance and told them that they could go to a nearby Armenian police station instead.

The man told SOTAvision that he took photos of one of the two men who stopped him in Gyumri and showed the photos to an Armenian military acquaintance, who he said recognised one of the men as a sniper from the Russian base.

At the end of March, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor stated that they had received reports from Russian citizens who fled political persecution in Russia about being tailed by individuals dressed in Russian military fatigues.

Belarusians in Armenia also appear to have been targeted by Minsk, with at least two Belarusians fleeing the draft in their country being detained in Armenia after crossing into the country from Georgia, due to being on a Commonwealth of Independent States wanted list.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.