Russian lawmakers toughen punishment for soldiers

MOSCOW (AP) – Russia’s Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament approved legislation on Tuesday to toughen punishments for soldiers who violate their duties, in an apparent effort to increase military discipline in the fighting in Ukraine.

A series of amendments to Russia’s penal code quickly approved by the Russian State Duma impose severe penalties for disobeying orders, deserting or surrendering to an enemy. The bill now needs to be approved by the upper house and then signed into law by President Vladimir Putin – steps considered formalities.

Under the new legislation, deserters during mobilization or martial law will be punished with up to 10 years in prison, compared with five years under the current law.

Those who surrender voluntarily will also face up to 10 years in prison, while those found guilty of robbery could face up to 15 years in prison.

Another amendment imposed prison terms of up to 10 years for those who refused to fight or obey orders from officers.

The passage of the new legislation follows media reports that some Russian soldiers in Ukraine refused to fight and tried to resign.

Unlike Ukraine’s goal of extensive mobilization to reach an active-duty army of one million combatants, Russia continues to rely on a limited contingent of volunteers.

Some nationalist politicians have called for mobilization to strengthen the ranks, but the Kremlin has so far excluded them.

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