Senators in Russia are discussing ways to counteract foreign attempts to undermine the country’s military strength, including a proposal to toughen laws against activities that could hinder the capability of its armed forces. Members of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament are considering criminalizing draft sabotage following a roundtable discussion last Friday.
Olga Kovitidy, who represents Crimea in the Federation Council and chaired the event, emphasized the need to counteract the activities of foreign intelligence services. She claimed that hostile powers “are using propaganda, agitation and agents on the ground in attempts to destabilize the situation in the country, undermine the government’s authority.”
During the roundtable, one of the measures suggested by a legal expert was to make avoiding conscription during wartime a more serious crime than it normally is in Russia. The current criminal code suggests fining people who fail to report for duty after being summoned by the Defense Ministry, or jailing them for up to two years in the worst cases.
In addition, the legal expert proposed criminal liability for those who advocate and facilitate draft evasion. Some legislators have expressed support for this proposal, suggesting that serving in the army is a duty for citizens and patriots, and evading conscription should have consequences.
Following President Vladimir Putin’s order for partial mobilization of reservists to bolster the army’s strength amid the military operation against Ukraine, there was an exodus of Russians who were concerned about being sent to the front. Some senior officials labeled the emigres as backstabbers, but the president opposed calls to punish such individuals, arguing that Russians are free to travel as they see fit, as long as they abide by the law.
While the majority of Russians disapproved of people who fled, they did not perceive their decision as betrayal, according to an opinion poll published last month. Other proposals at the roundtable included raising the responsibility level of soldiers who volunteered for units fighting in Ukraine to the same level as regular service members and imposing tougher punishments for defense producers and officials who fail to provide benefits owed to soldiers.
In addition to these proposals, the roundtable discussed the possibility of increasing criminal liability for those who fail to deliver on defense contracts during wartime and for agitators who push troops to defect.
Ultimately, the Russian senators believe that strengthening the laws against draft sabotage and other activities that undermine the country’s military capabilities is crucial in the face of increasing threats from foreign intelligence services. By imposing stricter penalties and criminalizing certain actions, the government hopes to protect the integrity of its armed forces and maintain its military strength.