As Putin Calls For Partial Mobilization, Duma Passes Draconian New Laws – OpEd


As one would expect, almost all attention in Russia and abroad today was focused on Vladimir Putin’s reversal of course and decision to call for a partial mobilization of the country, an indication that his campaign in Ukraine is not going well and that the Kremlin has decided that the only way to reverse the course of battle is with more men.

But while Putin speaking, the Duma unanimously passed new amendments to the Russian criminal code that provide legal definitions of mobilization, martial law and wartime, impose criminal penalties of ten years in prison for anyone who surrenders, 15 years behind bars for looting, and 10 years imprisonment for abandoning a unit during mobilization (

In the judgment of Lev Shlosberg, an opposition political leader from Pskov, no one should fail to take note of the fact that all these amendments “copy Stalin’s criminal code almost to the letter,” amendments which 80 years ago made any act of surrender “a direct path to the GULAG.”

At a minimum, the new laws will give a certain clarity to the rules under which the Russian military will operate; but Shlosberg’s words are a warning that the Putin regime may use these new laws not only immediately in the course of this partial mobilization but more generally, thereby increasing repression in Putin’s Russia still further. 

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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