MOSCOW (TBEN) – The Russian House of Commons, controlled by the Kremlin, passed legislation on Tuesday that will toughen the punishment for soldiers who neglect their duties, in an apparent effort to increase discipline in the ranks during the fighting in Ukraine.
The series of amendments to Russia’s Penal Code, swiftly approved by the State Duma, introduces severe penalties for disobeying orders, deserting or surrendering to the enemy. The bill now needs to get approval from the upper house and then be signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law — steps considered formalities.
Under the new legislation, leaving a military unit during a period of mobilization or under martial law would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison, compared to five years under the current law.
Those who voluntarily surrender to the enemy also face up to 10 years in prison, and those convicted of looting can face up to 15 years in prison.
Another amendment introduces a prison term of up to 10 years for those who refuse to fight or obey an officer’s order.
The adoption of the new legislation follows media reports alleging that some Russian soldiers in Ukraine have refused to engage in combat and have attempted to resign.
Unlike Ukraine, which conducted a broad mobilization with the aim of reaching an active army of 1 million fighters, Russia has continued to rely on a limited contingent of volunteers.
Some nationalist politicians have called for a mobilization to strengthen the ranks, but the Kremlin has so far ruled that out.