By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has provided guarantees to Russian soldiers who surrender to Ukrainian forces and called on Russians to dodge their country’s recent partial military mobilization.
Speaking in a September 24 address in which he switched to the Russian language, Zelenskiy offered guarantees to Russians who are taken prisoner while fighting in Ukraine and referred to newly enacted penalties in Russia against deserters or those who dodge the draft.
“Ukraine guarantees every Russian soldier who surrenders three things. First, you will be treated in a civilized manner, in accordance with all conventions. Second, no one will know the circumstances of your surrender, no one in Russia will know that your surrender was voluntary. And third, if you are afraid to return to Russia and do not want an exchange, we will find a way to ensure this as well,” Zelenskiy said.
Zelenskiy’s comments directly addressed Moscow’s recent partial mobilization, which is intended to buttress Russian forces who have been fighting in Ukraine since Moscow’s unprovoked invasion in February and who have recently suffered military setbacks in Ukraine’s east due to a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
“It is better not to take a conscription letter than to die in a foreign land as a war criminal,” Zelenskiy said. “It is better to run away from criminal mobilization than to be crippled and then bear responsibility in the court for participating in the war of aggression.”
Zelenskiy condemned the mobilization effort, announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 21, as a “crime,” and said that Russian commanders “do not care about the lives of Russians” and just need to replenish “empty spaces left by the dead, wounded, those who fled, or the Russian soldiers who were captured.”
On September 24, Putin signed amendments that toughened punishments for Russians who voluntarily surrender or who refuse to fight, making such actions punishable by 10 years in prison.
Putin also signed new regulations the same day that stipulated that foreigners serving in the Russian military for at least a year can apply for Russian citizenship without a residence permit.