Russian lawmakers vet bill allowing electronic draft notices

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday that would allow authorities to issue electronic summons to draftees and reservists amid the fighting in Ukraine.

The State Duma voted to pass the bill on its second and third readings. The legislation still needs approval from the upper house of parliament and President Vladimir Putin’s signature to take effect.

The bill was introduced as Russia’s military is preparing for an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, which Ukraine and its Western allies say could start within weeks.

Russia’s current military service rules require the in-person delivery of notices to conscripts and reservists who are called up for duty. Many Russians avoided the draft in the past by staying away from their address of record.

The proposed bill would close that loophole. While the notices issued by local military conscription offices will continue to be sent by mail, they would be considered valid from the moment they are put on a state portal for electronic services.

Recipients who fail to show up would be prohibited from leaving Russia, have their drivers’ licenses suspended and be barred from selling their apartments and other assets.

The legislation fueled fears of the government initiating another mobilization like one Putin ordered previously.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that officials don’t have such a plan. He argued that the proposed bill was needed to streamline the outdated call-up system in view of the flaws that were revealed by last fall’s partial mobilization.

Putin announced a call-up of 300,000 reservists in September after a Ukrainian counteroffensive that pushed Russian forces out of broad areas in the east.

The mobilization order prompted an exodus of Russian men that was estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands.

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