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Published in Press Stream:
September 22, 2015

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Published in Stream:
September 22, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Contract Soldiers Who Refused to Serve in Syria Could Face Treason Charges - Lawyer
6 years
Stream: September 22, 2015
Publication: Putin in Syria
Putin Preparing To Start The Bombing In Syria?
How Are The Conflicts In Ukraine and Syria Related?

Last week we published an excerpted translation of's account of four Russian contract soldiers who refused to be deployed to Syria.

They protested to a local military prosecutor about an assignment to an unnamed "warm country" where no duration, plan or objective was indicated, but for their troubles, found themselves under investigation.

Radio Svoboda, the Russian-language Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, interviewed Ivan Pavlov, the lawyer who has taken up the case of the contract soldiers. He said he could not give either the names or the number of his clients out of concern for their security. He said that the men had been recruited "in the dark" to be deployed to a "hot spot" of conflict. When they appealed to the prosecutor to defend their rights, the prosecutor opened an investigation and the FSB also became involved.

After the media coverage of their plight, the soldiers' situation improved, and they were en route to their base of permanent deployment as of September 20. Nevertheless, they are facing a criminal case and may even be charged with treason, said Pavlov.

He said that under Russian law, as well as the contracts the soldier signs, they cannot be sent on a mission where they are not told where the destination is or what the terms of deployment are.

He also said that when soldiers are sent on ill-defined missions in this fashion, their families are not always able to get compensation if they are killed.

Since the Soviet era, a number of groups such as the Soldiers' Mothers have sought reform of the army to better protect servicemen's rights. Some changes have been made in law and practice, but are not enforced; Pavlov said they were not in evidence (translation by The Interpreter):

"People were treated like cannon fodder in the times of the USSR and the Soviet Army, like slaves without rights, and they continue to be treated this way. Despite the fact that all people with common sense realized that a modern and effective army can only be made out of free people through a normal contract system when each of the sides, and not only the serviceman ranking at the bottom, knows his duties. The "father commanders" must understand that they have certain obligations to their subordinates."

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick