Hundreds of Russian soldiers fled the battlefield Or they refused to participate in the first phase of the war, according to documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal, as well as the accused soldiers and their attorneys. These are very cautious estimates, and military analysts and Ukrainian officials say there have been many such cases.
The report reveals the extent of the abandonment. This is why the Kremlin’s hands are tied
Russian authorities cannot punish deserters, for example, because that would publicize the order and force them to admit the problem exists. Currently, the propaganda is based on the vision of the heroic Russian soldiers defending the weaker. In this comic, the Russians have no place to refuse to fight.
But it’s not just about keeping your face from the audience. Russia has already lost thousands of soldiers and about a quarter of the equipment deployed in Ukraine. The army has no personnel, it is looking for recruits who will help turn the tide of the war.
If these issues aired, the government would inadvertently increase the volume of desertion, which is small in percentage terms but will continue to grow, Paul Luzin, a Moscow defense expert, tells The Wall Street Journal.
So the penalties were surprisingly moderate. Until now, they were in most cases limited to firing soldiers without being paid or depriving them of perks and service benefits. But this does not mean that superiors do not threaten soldiers with much harsher penalties.
In the recordings published by the independent Russian portal Mediazona You can hear the Russian commander telling the soldier that if he refuses to go to the front, he will have 15 years to “walk around the yard” [więziennym]. The soldier who recorded the conversation replied that he had spoken to lawyers who said he was not a prisoner under the law. “Bring your lawyer here, we’ll talk to them,” the supervisor replied.
The maximum penalty for desertion is 10 years in prison. However, Russian propaganda can be used against the Kremlin. Lawyers defending soldiers dismissed for insubordination assert that since Russia did not declare war on Ukraine, there are also no legal grounds for bringing criminal charges against those who refuse to serve abroad.
And the number of cases is increasing. On March 24, lawyer Mikhail Benjas published a post on social media about the case of the accused National Guard members who are defending him. In a few days, he received more than a thousand requests for help. On March 17, the Russian human rights organization Agora launched a Telegram channel through which soldiers and their families can receive legal aid. Within ten days, 721 military contacted her. These are just some of the cases reported to Wall Street Journal reporters.
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