Two Russian soldiers from Kamchatka in the far east have been sentenced to two and a half years each in prison for refusing to fight in Ukraine, human rights group OVD-Info said on Wednesday.
In separate rulings, the men, identified in military court documents as Alexander Stepanov and Andrei Mikhailov, were found guilty of refusing orders to go into combat during wartime. Russian President Vladimir Putin amended the criminal code last year to include prison sentences of up to three years for such violations.
The 35th Garrison Military Court in Kamchatka handed down the sentences to Stepanov and Mikhailov on April 25 and April 27, respectively. The men have not yet been sent to prison and have the option to appeal.
Putin ordered the mobilisation of an extra 300,000 troops last September to bolster Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, where the army has sustained heavy losses in nearly 15 months of war. The move, unprecedented since World War Two, prompted hundreds of thousands of Russian men to flee the country to avoid being called up.
In February, a 20-year-old conscript soldier from the northern Urals committed suicide by hanging himself from a belt at his military station outside Moscow after he refused to go to Ukraine, OVD-Info reported.
“I do not want to obey people who inspire nothing but fear and disgust,” the soldier, Sergei Gridin, wrote in a suicide note. “Therefore, I decided to die here, in my native land, without someone else’s blood on my hands.”