Russian soldiers who desert their posts could face up to 10 years in jail under legislation that passed the lower house of parliament a day before Putin announced 'partial mobilization'

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Veliky Novgorod, Russia, on September 21, 2022.Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
  • Russia's lower house of parliament approved a bill that toughens punishments for soldiers.

  • The bill increases jail time for soldiers deserting their posts and adds a reference to "mobilization."

  • The law was approved just a day before President Putin announced a "partial mobilization."

Russia's lower house of parliament passed legislation increasing jail time for soldiers who desert their posts or surrender without authorization.

The State Duma passed the bill on Tuesday that increases jail time for soldiers who desert their unit from five years to up to 10 years. The law needs approval from Russia's upper house known as the Federation Council and a signature from President Vladimir Putin — both of which are often seen as formalities.

The bill passed just a day before Putin announced plans for a "partial mobilization" of the country's military reserve forces, drafting about 300,000 reservists, according to The Washington Post.

Part of the bill includes an amended phrase that states soldiers will be punished if they desert their unit "in the period of mobilization or the state of martial law, as well as during wartime or while armed conflict and combat activities are underway," according to a translation by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

A previous version of the bill only referenced times "during armed conflicts or military actions," Radio Free Europe reported.

Other amendments specify a prison sentence of up to 10 years if soldiers refuse to go to combat, disobey a commander's order, or surrender to the enemy without authorization.

The bill and the partial mobilization present another sign that Moscow is escalating its war in Ukraine, even as some soldiers are expressing exhaustion from the seven-month-long invasion.

Just days before Ukrainian forces recaptured the city of Izium, a group of Russian soldiers began drafting letters that expressed "moral exhaustion" and requests to their commanders to leave their posts.

"I refuse to complete my duty in the special operation on the territory of Ukraine due to lack of vacation days and moral exhaustion," one soldier wrote.

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