Documents Reveal Hundreds of Russian Troops Broke Ranks Over Ukraine Orders
Hundreds of Russian soldiers have escaped the fighting in Ukraine or refused to take part during the early stages of the war, according to military decrees viewed by The Wall Street Journal as well as accused soldiers and lawyers defending them.
Russia’s army stumbled badly early in its invasion of Ukraine and suffered thousands of casualties and the loss of an estimated quarter of its deployed military hardware, a senior Pentagon official said in April. Desertions and insubordination among soldiers, Interior Ministry troops and members of the National Guard are compounding the problem.
The desertions place Russian authorities in a bind over how to punish those who refuse to serve without drawing more attention to the issue, defense experts said. The Russian military is short on manpower and seeking recruits to help turn the tide in Ukraine.
Penalties have so far been largely limited to formal dismissals from service. Because Russia hasn’t declared war on Ukraine, there also are few legal grounds for criminal charges against those who refuse to serve abroad, according to a lawyer and former military prosecutor’s assistant who is defending soldiers fired for insubordination.
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