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Eight Russian draftees face desertion charges after leaving Ukraine, returning to Russia by cab
Eight draftees from the Kaliningrad region have been charged with “armed desertion in wartime,” a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison under the Russian criminal law.
The alleged organizer of the escape is junior sergeant Evgeny Kravchenko, arrested by a garrison military court, as reported by Kommersant. The remaining suspects are in custody of the unit commander at the Chekhov-4 army base.
According to the suspects’ testimony, they had been drafted into the Russian army on September 24, 2022. On November 12, they were transferred to a camp located near Mala Oleksandrivka in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. There, the servicemen were ordered to build dugouts, but got neither food nor quality uniforms. In early December, their command informed them they would be sent to the frontline, and the group decided to get away, “for the sake of saving their lives and health.”
On December 23, the servicemen bought some provisions and civilian clothes, and ordered two cabs to Lipetsk, Russia. They spent the night there, and then took minibuses to Podolsk, a town in the Moscow region. Once there, they came voluntarily to the police and surrendered their weapons: four assault rifles and four Kalashnikov machine guns.
Evgeny Kravchenko’s attorney Evgeny Saveskul told the journalists that the suspects’ final destination was Kaliningrad, where they had been mobilized. “None of them wanted to desert, but they didn’t want to fight without appropriate preparation, either,” said the defense lawyer.
Pavel Chikov, the head of Agora, a human rights advocacy organization, has pointed out that claiming insufficient preparation is the safest legal defense strategy for Russians who don’t want to fight in the war against Ukraine, for any reason.
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