April 16, 2024

A Brick in AWOL


A Brick in AWOL
83rd Guards Air Assault Brigade's artillery exercise. 
  Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, Wikimedia Commons.

According to calculations by journalists at the independent outlet Mediazona, in March 2024 Russian military courts adjudicated 684 cases of unauthorized abandonment of military units. This translates to an average of 34 sentences per working day.

The surge in cases under Article 337 of the Criminal Code, which pertains to desertion, began in September 2022, following Russia's first mass mobilization for the war in Ukraine, in which approximately 300,000 reservists were called up for service, and subsequent regulations effectively made temporary contracts with the Ministry of Defense indefinite, preventing soldiers from leaving the army.

Since the beginning of 2024, military courts have received approximately 2,300 cases, and since the onset of mobilization, nearly 7,400 cases have been recorded. The majority of these cases are concentrated in the Moscow (496 cases), Sverdlovsk (258), and Orenburg (255) regions.

Military courts have opted for suspended sentences in most instances of unauthorized abandonment. Mediazona reported that this is often done to allow the convicted soldier to be immediately deployed for combat duty, as individuals are only dismissed from service if they receive a custodial sentence.

The Russian military currently faces a serious shortage of personnel, prompting efforts to recruit foreigners, and to reports of a new moblization, as reported by Russian pro-war bloggers and independent sources such as Verstka. According to Verstka journalists, the current shortage, coupled with the Russian army's ambition to capture the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, is expected to result in a mobilization effort in the coming months.

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