NewsRising desertion rates in the Russian army force new strategies

Rising desertion rates in the Russian army force new strategies

Russians are deserting more and more often
Russians are deserting more and more often
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ed. MZUG

20 June 2024 19:02

The number of deserters in the Russian army is increasing, reports "Rzeczpospolita", citing independent Russian media. However, court rulings are becoming less frequent. After apprehending a deserter, the Kremlin sends him straight to the front. "This is an order from Moscow itself," the guards indicate.

In March, military courts issued as many as 35 rulings daily in these cases. The pace of proceedings means that over 9,300 of the accused have already been convicted, reports the independent Russian portal Mediazona, which is cited by "Rzeczpospolita."

The number of court cases is increasing

Judges strive to issue suspended sentences, allowing the convicted to immediately return to their units directly to the front. However, formally, desertion carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison.

The term "refusal of military service" in Russia includes desertion and refusal to obey orders, as well as "unauthorised leave," which means leaving the place of service without permission. In the latter case, "unauthorised leaves" often mean refusing to return from leave at home, reports "Rzeczpospolita".

Many soldiers start hiding with family or friends. The number of those hiding is unknown because the data on sought-after soldiers and those caught but not brought to trial is classified, unlike the data on those convicted of desertion.

In the early stages of the war, deserters' cases were not directed to courts in the Russian army, resulting from peacetime habits. Most often, those caught were beaten and tortured in the units they escaped from and then sent to the front.

This changed after Vladimir Putin announced "partial mobilisation" in the autumn of 2022. The influx of new soldiers unwilling to go to war resulted in a sharp increase in the number of deserters, a trend that continues today. The army only felt the effects of the mobilisation in the spring of 2024, as evidenced by a fourfold increase in military court verdicts compared to January-March 2023, reports "Rzeczpospolita".

With the mobilisation, the Russian parliament tightened the regulations concerning penalties for desertion, and military courts began operating at full speed, as reflected in the statistics. Last month, a new record was set—929 criminal cases.

Deserters are sent straight to the front

A new practice has also emerged in Russia. Relatives of soldiers from Krasnoyarsk recounted that 40 armed men entered the building of the military unit where those refusing service were held. They removed about 170-180 people, who were then herded into buses, transported to a military airfield, and sent to the front.

"Rzeczpospolita" explains that the Kremlin reduces the number of court cases through such actions. These cases, though quick, spoil the statistics and prevent promotions for failing to supervise privates. "This was not our idea; it's an order from Moscow itself," explained the guards in the provinces.

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