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Sweden hands out first jail terms for draft evasion since return of conscription

Some 3,700 young men and women were drafted in 2018. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Three young Swedes have been sentenced to prison this year for refusing to start or complete their national service.

The men, one of whom never turned up at his regiment and two of whom deserted, are the first to be jailed for evading military conscription since Sweden reinstated national service.

André, 20, who was given a 14-day sentence for leaving his regiment shortly after training began, said he felt it was wrong that he be punished.

"I think that it's up to me to decide. If I don't want to do it, I shouldn't be forced," he told Sveriges Radio.

But Bengt Forssten, head of division at the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency, said those conscripted could not simply change their minds.

"Having regrets or your motivation changing isn't an acceptable reason to drop out of your service," he said.

Sweden's parliament voted to bring back conscription in 2017 as part of a national effort to rebuild the country's defence capability in response to a more militaristic Russia. About 3,700 young people were signed up to serve last year, and this year as many as 5,000 are expected to be called up.

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