Deputies of the Russian State Duma have passed a draft law in the first reading on criminal liability for volunteers fighting in the war in Ukraine for desertion and voluntary surrender.

The initiative aims to equalize the responsibility of the conscripts and volunteers.

The authors of the initiative note that volunteer groups perform combat missions on a par with the Russian army. However, at present, volunteers are not criminally liable for desertion, loss or intentional damage to weapons, or for voluntary surrender.

The document, in particular, stipulates that volunteers are subject to articles of the Criminal Code, according to which they can be tried for such crimes as: desertion; voluntary surrender; resistance to a superior; destruction, damage or loss of military property; simulating illness or injury; and unauthorized leaving the place of service.


However, Russian servicemen believe that they will not be tried for surrendering; instead, they will simply be “shot.”

This month, Kyiv Post spoke to Russian prisoners of war who said they did not want to be exchanged and returned home to Russia because they would be “shot for surrendering.”

“We were taught how to blow up a grenade. They said we should not surrender because they would torture us, beat us and so on,” a Russian soldier told Kyiv Post.

As of November 2023, according to the Russian media outlet Mediazona, 4,121 criminal cases of unauthorized abandonment of a unit have been filed with Russian military courts, and 3,470 cases have already been decided. Most of the defendants in cases of unauthorized abandonment of units receive only suspended sentences.

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