By Paul Goble
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 (meduza.io/en/feature/2022/09/20/almost-an-exact-copy-of-stalin-s-amendments).
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.