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Zelensky signs law increasing penalties for desertion and other military offenses

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has approved amendments to the country’s Criminal Code that impose harsher penalties for soldiers who commit certain offenses during wartime.

Under the new legislation, judges will no longer be allowed to give reduced sentences to service members convicted of disobeying a commander, failure to comply with orders, threatening or using violence against a commander, desertion, or unauthorized abandonment. The law also increases minimum sentences for misdemeanor offenses such as consuming alcohol while serving in the military.

Before it was signed into law, the bill faced criticism from human rights advocates, who say it infringes on Ukrainian soldiers’ right to legal defense. A petition against the measures received more than 25,000 signatures, the amount required for it to be given official consideration.

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