Video shows Russian soldiers arrested for refusing deployment to Ukraine The disturbing footage is a clear attempt to ‘teach everyone else a lesson,’ says legal expert
A video showing military police dragging away two Russian soldiers circulated on social media on November 20, appearing on both Ukrainian and Russian Telegram channels. The pro-war channel Veteran’s Notes (Zapiski Veterana), which was among the first to publish the footage, indicated that it had been recorded in the Belgorod region. Legal experts told Meduza that this demonstration was designed to intimidate Russian soldiers who might resist being sent to the frontlines in Ukraine.
The video shows a commander summoning two soldiers before an entire unit, one at a time. With each soldier, a police investigator informs him that, as of November 16, he is charged with disobeying military orders (Article 332 of Russia’s Criminal Code). An armed escort then arrests the soldier and drags him to a waiting police vehicle. The first arrest is said to take place at 1:30 p.m., the second at 2:17 p.m.
The military police twist the arms of one of these soldiers, rifling through his pockets. At the end of the video, the commander mentions that the unit will be lined up again at 3 p.m. It isn’t clear if anyone else was arrested then.
According to administrators at Veteran’s Notes (one of the first Telegram channels to circulate the video), the two arrested soldiers belong to different units, and the criminal case against them is connected to their refusal to serve in Ukraine. “First verbally, and then in written form,” the two of them “refused to follow the unit commander’s orders to go to the combat zone,” reported the channel.
The two arrested soldiers’ full names are still unverified. Only their surnames, Selivanov and Degtyaryov, are clearly audible in the video. It’s also unconfirmed whether they were contract soldiers or new draftees.
Maxim Grebenyuk, the military attorney behind the Military Ombudsman (Voyenny Ombudsmen) Telegram channel, points out that “it’s completely unnecessary to arrest a soldier on the military unit’s grounds.” The only reason to take someone into custody like this, he explains, is to send a message and “teach everyone else a lesson.” If the arrested soldiers are not under contract, the case against them will probably “fall apart,” Grebenyuk expects.
Tatiana Degtyaryova, the wife of one of the arrested soldiers, told the news outlet Poligon.Media that her husband Yuri Degtyaryov had recently returned from Ukraine and now refuses to go back. She says her husband was arrested on November 17 and awaits trial in Voronezh. Here’s how Degtyaryova described her husband’s situation:
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Later, she explains, the draftees were brought to the Luhansk region. They arrived at night and immediately found themselves under fire. Without any commanders to lead them, the soldiers decided to retreat, she says. The men were later sent to an army unit stationed outside Belgorod, where senior officials tried again to intimidate them into returning to the frontlines. Degtyaryova says her husband and his comrades nevertheless refused to be treated like “cannon fodder.”
Citing other conscripts’ relatives, Degtyaryova said her husband wasn’t the only soldier to reject orders to return to the combat zone:
This is not the first criminal case in Russia against soldiers accused of disobeying wartime orders. In late October, human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov described another case where the defendant allegedly defied a combat dispatch order, “thereby refusing to participate in combat.”
Moscow-based analyst Mikhail Pozharsky explains that refusing to fight on the pretext of insufficient training or inadequate equipment is the best legal defense for any Russian soldier trying to avoid deployment to Ukraine (whether his actual motives are conscientious or otherwise). “If you’re against the war, and you have been drafted, and you’re not a political activist, your most rational position is to talk about the absence of gear and preparation,” Pozharsky wrote on Telegram. Since the Russian army is unlikely to solve its supply and personnel problems anytime soon, this is the safest legal strategy, as it avoids the criminal risks of pleading objections to the invasion on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.