Russia: Escape from participation in the war

Current figures, September 2023

by Rudi Friedrich

(19.09.2023) We know that thousands of military conscripts have fled Russia. However, it is not possible to obtain accurate figures on desertion, conscientious objection, and military draft evasion in Russia. No statistics record how many there really are.

Based on new information, we update our estimate for the number of fled military service-obligated men from Russia. We arrive now at a figure of at least 250,000 male refugees liable for military service who left Russia.

In September 2022, we had made an estimate, based on various statistics, of how many military service men have fled Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. For Russia, we came up with an estimate there of at least 150,000, for Belarus at least 22,000, and for Ukraine at least 170,000. In the meantime, these numbers have probably increased. Based on new information, we therefore want to use this compilation to update our estimate for the number of fled military service-obligated men from Russia.

Who is obliged to join the army?

In Russia, compulsory military service has been extended from 18 years to up to 30 years. In addition, reservists in particular can be called up for wartime service. For example, the Russian government raised the age limit for possible enlistment of contract soldiers to 65 at the end of May 2022. Women are enlisted but have so far been exempt from these regulations; they are not subject to conscription in Russia. However, women with war-related occupations, such as in the medical field, could be recruited. It should also be noted that the regulations can change at any time during the course of the war. In our estimate, we assume that soldiers drafted and deployed for wartime service will generally be from the 18- to 65-year-old male group.


There are a number of exemptions for recruitment in Russia. For example, there is the possibility of draft evasion due to invalidity, which is also frequently granted by means of corruption. It is also possible to become deferred for training or study. And there conscientious objection is also an option, which, however, is handled very restrictively in Russia. With the partial mobilization in September 2022, there is now a broad-based recruitment primarily of reservists. For more information on this and on recruitment practices, see the report from the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Annual Report of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection.

Russia began the war as a so-called special operation and claimed that no conscripts would be deployed in Ukraine, only contract soldiers. However, various examples showed that conscripts were coerced into signing contracts, so they found themselves in Ukraine unawares. We also receive reports revealing that others are being recruited as well.

To reflect the exceptions in the figures, we have reduced the available figures on men between 18 and 65 years of age. Thus, in the case of Russia, we assume that only 70% of men aged 18 to 65 could actually be recruited in their country of origin under the current guidelines.

In all of this, it should also be noted that the situation for conscripts and reservists can change at any time due to the war situation. This also applies to the possible recruitment of women. It cannot be ruled out that if the war continues, a larger group of people might be recruited, exemptions and deferrals be lifted, and the military could become more open or mandatory for women, etc.

Scale of flight and destination countries

In July 2023, the opposition analysis and policy network RE: Russia published a study on flight from Russia from February 24, 2022, to July 2023, concluding that 820,000 to 920,000 people left Russia during this period.

Emigration from Russia due to the war, 2022-2023


Upper estimate

Lower estimate
















European Union












Other countries






RE: Russia: Escape from War: New data puts the number of Russians who have left at more than 800,000 people. 28.7.2023.

As can be seen, the vast majority of refugees from Russia went to countries outside the European Union. Eurostat gives figures on how many have applied for asylum in the 27 countries of the European Union. According to these figures, in the period from February 2022 to April 2023 inclusively, 21,790 Russian nationals applied for asylum in the EU, equalling only 2.65%.

The movement of refugees from Russia also has much to do with the fact that the political climate and restrictions against opposition figures have tightened significantly. Many had taken to the streets or protested against the war on social media at the beginning of the war. This was harshly prosecuted by the police and security authorities. Thus, that was also one of the reasons for leaving the country. On the other hand, we also have to see that all men who are basically subject to compulsory military service can also be potential recruits, even if that is not their causal reason for fleeing in the first place. And the opposition to the war also shows that they may have little interest in being drafted into it.

Therefore, the question arises, how many men and women are among the refugees? And how many men are of the appropriate age? Here, Eurostat’s statistics on asylum application numbers can give us a clue.

Eurostat states that from February 2022 to April 2023, a total of 21,790 asylum applications were filed by Russian citizens*, including 9,580 applications by men between the ages of 18 and 64. This would represent about 44% of the total number of asylum applicants in the same period.

That is why we assume that about 44% of refugees from Russia are men aged 18-64. Due to exemptions for military service, we reduce this number by 30% in our estimate.

Flight from Russia - January to September 2022


Flight from Russland – February 2022 to July 2023


Total number of emigrants

> 820.000


Men between 18 and 65 years old (44% pos. 1)



Men subject to military service (70% of pos. 2) estimated


Thus, for the period from February 2022 to July 2023, based on at least 820,000 persons who left Russia, we arrive at a figure of at least 250,000 male refugees liable for military service.

Rudi Friedrich: Escape from Participation in War - Current Figures on Russia, September 19, 2023

Keywords:    ⇒ Desertion   ⇒ Draft Evasion   ⇒ Refugees   ⇒ Russia