Military courts in Russia prosecute a record number of front-line deserters

By - April 12, 2024 The Independent Barents Observer

Journalists from the Russian news website Mediazona researched the publicly available records of Russian garrison and district courts and found that the increase in the number of cases against “refuseniks” (those soldiers who desert – leave the armed forces without permission and with no intention of returning) in 2024 is unprecedented. 

In March 2024, 684 such sentences were passed by Russian military courts. This means that judges handed down 34 sentences under Article 337 every working day of the month, Mediazona reports. 


Statistics on the record number of cases of front-line deserters in Russian military courts. Photo: Mediazona


After President Putin first announced mobilization in September 2022, the number of cases began to rise, reaching a peak after two years of war in Ukraine. 

Based on the data analyses, since the beginning of 2024, military courts have received nearly 2,300 AWOL cases, and almost 7,400 cases since the beginning of mobilisation, Mediazona reports. According to journalists, most of them come from the Moscow region (496 cases), Sverdlovsk region (258) and Orenburg region (255).

In early February, the European-based Russian news website Novaya Gazeta also reported that the number of soldiers deserting the Russian army had increased tenfold in the past year.  

Novaya Gazeta reported that many deserters head to Kazakhstan as Russians do not require a travel passport to enter the country. Conscious that it’s a risk for deserters to remain there for a long time, volunteers are working to secure him safe-passage to a third country, Novaya Gazeta reports.

One of the reasons for desertion is that some soldiers are not allowed to take leave. As a result, thousands of Russian women whose husbands have been sent to war with Ukraine are demanding that their loved ones return home. They are launching petitions, writing to lawmakers and protesting in the streets.