Russian Troops Prosecuted After Refusing to Fight in Ukraine

Undermines claims by Kremlin that soldiers are ‘volunteers’

A Russia-backed rebel tank moves to position, near Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine, Friday, June 12
A Russia-backed rebel tank in eastern Ukraine / AP

Several Russian soldiers are facing prosecution after they refused to fight in eastern Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reports.

The Russian troops fled their bases after being urged to "volunteer" in Ukraine and assist pro-Russian separatists there, according to AFP:

The popular Gazeta.ru website said several dozen soldiers would be prosecuted after fleeing a training ground in southern Russia where they were under pressure to "volunteer" to fight in Ukraine.

The troops had freely enlisted for the army and are not draftees, it said.

It is the latest report to allege Russian soldiers are being sent to eastern Ukraine despite Moscow's insistence that only "volunteers" are fighting alongside the pro-Russian separatists. […]

Gazeta.ru cited the mother of 21-year-old soldier Ivan Shevkunov, who is facing up to 10 years' jail as a deserter.

"He said that soldiers were being forced to go (to Ukraine) as volunteers," said the soldier's mother, named as Svetlana Nikolayevna.

In one unit in the town of Maikop, 62 soldiers were reportedly convicted of going AWOL in the first half of this year.

Russia is believed to have as many as 9,000 troops in Ukraine.