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Top Ukrainian general wants to punish deserters

Lapses in discipline cost lives and territory, Zaluzhny says in public message

Ukraine must impose harsher penalties on those found violating military discipline, the armed forces chief of staff Valery Zaluzhny said Monday. In a video message, the general urged President Vladimir Zelensky to enact a new law, saying that those who flee the front or disobey orders are costing the country lives and territory.

“Unauthorized abandonment” of positions has resulted in high casualties among the soldiers and civilians and undermined morale, Zaluzhny said in a video posted on Facebook

“The army runs on discipline. And if there are loopholes in the law, or if those who refuse can pay a fine of up to 10% of their pay, or get probation, this is unfair,” argued Zaluzhny. “Moreover, and this is key, other military personnel are forced to cover the exposed areas of the front, which leads to an increase in the loss of personnel, territories and civilians living there.” 


Often lost positions have to be restored through assault operations, at a very high price. It shouldn’t be like this.

The Ukrainian parliament recently approved amendments to the law on military discipline. In the video message, Zaluzhny urged Zelensky to sign it, noting that officers down the chain of command agree with his assessment that a “systemic solution” is needed for this problem.

The new law would increase the maximum punishment for disobeying a lawful order, for example, from a fine of 145 minimum units of pay to 500 and 10 days in the stockade. The minimum unit of tax-free payment for a Ukrainian soldier is currently 17 hryvnia, or about $0.50.

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Zaluzhny acknowledged there were “problems” that caused “arbitrary abandonment” of positions, but said he was addressing them and had full trust in his subordinate officers. Further discussion of the subject is only going to hurt the war effort, he added.

While the general officially aimed his public message at Zelensky, speculation is rampant that the actual audience are his troops. Amid reports of heavy combat casualties in current fighting, there has been a resurgence of social media posts in which angry service members – often local militia conscripts from Western Ukraine, deployed halfway across the country – are protesting the conditions on the front, criticizing their commanders, and announcing they will retreat from positions where they were abandoned to die.

There was a similar outbreak of such posts in the spring and summer, leading the parliament to propose executing deserters. That bill was withdrawn on May 24, following public outcry. The government in Kiev had amended military discipline rules in 2014, authorizing officers to physically strike or otherwise punish soldiers who disobey orders or attempt to desert their post.

December 20, 2022 at 05:39AM


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