Ukrainian officials are investigating claims a 24-year-old man married his 81-year-old disabled cousin in order to escape having to do military service.
The man claimed to have developed a strong affection for the cousin, who is 57 years his senior, and denies that he was trying to get out of performing military service.
Conscription in Ukraine is compulsory, although there are exceptions that will allow people to avoid having to turn up.
One of them is if you are responsible for looking after a wife who is disabled, and after marrying his disabled 81-year-old cousin, and producing the marriage certificate, Alexander Kondratyuk was also exempt from the need to join the army.
The wedding took place in the village of Baykovka which is near the city of Vinnitsa in west-central Ukraine, located on the banks of the Southern Bug, one of the longest rivers in the country.
Questioned by reporters about her marriage to her much younger relative, she insisted he was a good husband and looked after her carefully. However, neighbours of the old woman claimed that the man was never seen in the area.
One told local TV that the woman, Zinaida Illarionovna, 81, was “much more likely to be visited by her nephews, grandchildren and sisters than by her supposed husband.”
They said that she lived in the house alone, and that the only visible sign of the marriage was the certificate that he took with him every time the draft board turned up in the area to bring in the new recruits. By showing the certificate, and her disability certificate, he was allowed each time to return home without signing up.
However despite scepticism, Commissioner Aleksandr Danilyuk, in charge of the Vinnitsa Commissariat which deals with conscription in the region, confirmed that he had a right to have his draft papers deferred because he is the guardian of a registered disabled person.
He added that legally there was nothing that can be done as he provided a marriage certificate and a certificate proving that he was resident at the home where he cared for her.
However legal expert said that if they wanted to the army could call neighbours as witnesses if there was some doubt that he actually really lived at the house.
One lawyer questioned, Roman Korchenyuk, said: “If they prove that there is no valid marriage, and that there is no common household, then he can be called up to do military service.”
But army officials confirmed they had no interest in investigating the matter because there was not the time. They said if the publicity did not embarrass him into turning up, then he would be allowed to continue with the arrangement.”
Online social media commentators lined up to criticise the man’s actions.
One, ‘Victor V.’, said: “The grandmother lives with a grey groat.”
And ‘Night Angel’ added: “At least the grandmother knows that her grandson will not kill her.”
While ‘Jan-Klad-Van’ said: “It’s better to laugh from this than go to the war and kill people.”
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Story By: Peotr Tulba , Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
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