MOSCOW — The Kremlin-controlled lower house of Russia’s parliament on Tuesday approved legislation that toughens penalties for soldiers who neglect their duties, in an apparent effort to bolster discipline in the ranks amid fighting in Ukraine.
The package of amendments to the Russian Criminal Code that was quickly approved by the State Duma introduces severe penalties for disobeying orders, deserting or surrendering to the enemy. The bill must now receive the approval of the upper house and then be signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law – steps that are considered formalities.
Under the new law, deserting a military unit during a period of mobilization or martial law would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison, compared to five years under the current law.
Those who willfully surrender to the enemy will also face a prison term of up to 10 years, and those found guilty of looting could face a 15-year sentence.
Another amendment introduces a prison sentence of up to 10 years for those who refuse to go into battle or follow an officer’s order.
The passage of the new legislation follows media reports alleging that some Russian soldiers in Ukraine have refused to go into combat and have tried to resign from the service.
Unlike Ukraine, which led a large mobilization with the aim of reaching an active army of one million fighters, Russia continued to rely on a limited contingent of volunteers.
Some nationalist politicians have called for a mobilization to bolster ranks, but the Kremlin has so far ruled it out.