Fotolur photo: Armenian Science and Education Minister Levon Mkrtchian
By Atom Markarian
Armenian students enrolled on privately-funded programs of foreign universities will have to mortgage $15,000 worth of cash or property as a guarantee that they will return to the country to perform their compulsory military service, the government announced on Thursday.
Officials said the measure, approved at a cabinet session earlier in the day, is aimed at further complicating draft evasion and legalizing the status of Armenians studying abroad. The government will propose a corresponding amendment in the law on military service next year.
“We want to regulate this sphere because there are already dozens of criminal cases pending against students evading military service,” Science and Education Minister Levon Mkrtchian told reporters. “This is an opportunity for our citizens to solve the problem in a legal manner.”
The law in question allows only the undergraduate male students of state-run Armenian universities to join the armed forces after completing their four- or five-year studies. Citizens studying abroad on government-approved exchange programs can also have their service deferred.
Those who traveled abroad on their own will now be required to sign a special agreement with the authorities whereby they would deposit an equivalent of $15,000 and get it back after returning to Armenia and serving in the army. They can mortgage apartments, cars and other property.
Mkrtchian claimed that the arrangement was suggested by many of the expatriate students and their families fearing prosecution for draft evasion. “Those who are studying at European, American or Russian institutions of higher education should be able to mortgage $15,000 worth of property,” he said.
Mkrtchian did not give the precise number of such students. The vast majority of them are believed to have private U.S. or European scholarships. It is therefore not known whether they mostly come from well-to-do families that can afford the deposit.
Mkrtchian disagreed with suggestions that the new measure could breed more corruption in the military by tempting the affected students to buy phony draft exemptions from military commissariats.