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Russia stiffens penalty for surrender, replaces general

1. Russia 1
A man walks with a cane near a bridge over the Oskil River as black smoke rises in the frontline city of Kupiansk, on September 24, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo: AFP)

KYIV — Russia on Saturday toughened penalties for voluntary surrender and refusal to fight with up to 10 years imprisonment and replaced its top logistics general after a series of setbacks to its seven-month war in Ukraine. اضافة اعلان

The tough new amendments and personnel change come days after Russia instigated partial mobilization with Kyiv taking back more and more territory in a counter-offensive.

It also comes as Kremlin-held regions of eastern and southern Ukraine voted for a second day on becoming part of Russia, dramatically raising the stakes.

Integrating the four regions into Russia would mean that Moscow would consider any military move there as an attack on its own territory.

Russia’s invasion, launched on February 24, and Ukraine’s recent gains have laid bare flaws with some analysts seeing logistics as the weak link in Moscow’s army.

“Army Gen. Dmitry Bulgakov has been relieved of the post of deputy minister of defense” and will be replaced by Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, aged 60, the defense ministry said.

Russia’s partial mobilization announced on Wednesday will likely be one of his first big logistical challenges with the hundreds of thousands of reservists being called up needing to be equipped and trained before deployment.

Military-age men have sought to leave, with flights full and neighboring countries receiving an influx of Russians, including Georgia where 2,300 private vehicles were waiting to enter at one crossing, regional Russian authorities said.

Now that President Vladimir Putin has signed the legislation, servicemen who desert, surrender “without authorization”, refuse to fight or disobey orders can face up to 10 years imprisonment.

‘Sham’

Looting will be punishable by 15 years imprisonment.

A separate law, also signed on Saturday, facilitates Russian citizenship for foreigners who enlist in the Russian army as the Kremlin seeks to bolster the ranks.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden has dismissed as a “sham” the voting on whether Russia should annex four regions of Ukraine, which ends next Tuesday.

Even Beijing, Moscow’s closest ally since the war began, called for the respect of “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The voting is being held in Russian-controlled areas of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.

For four days, authorities are going door-to-door to collect votes. Polling stations then open Tuesday for residents to cast ballots on the final day. Results are expected as early as late Tuesday or Wednesday.

The snap referendums were announced just this week after the Ukrainian counter-offensive seized most of the northeast Kharkiv region — bringing hundreds of settlements back under Kyiv’s control after months of Russian occupation.

Evidence of ‘war crimes’

Putin this week warned that Moscow would use “all means” to protect its territory — which former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said on social media could include the use of “strategic nuclear weapons”.

Zelensky has denounced the polls, on Friday calling them “crimes against international law and the law of Ukraine”.

G7 nations declared the polls will “never” be recognized and have “no legal effect or legitimacy”.

UN investigators on Friday accused Russia of committing war crimes on a “massive scale” in Ukraine — listing bombings, executions, torture, and sexual violence.

In the eastern Kharkiv region, Ukrainian officials said they had exhumed 447 bodies from a site near the city of Izyum, which was recaptured from Russian forces.

The Kremlin has accused Kyiv of fabricating evidence of the alleged war crimes.

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