‘I’d rather go to jail than front line’. Russian court sentences draftee to five years behind bars over desertion charges

A Novosibirsk garrison court has sentenced 25-year-old draftee Vladimir Konstantinov to five years in a general regime penal colony over charges of desertion during the mobilisation period or during armed conflict, Russian newspaper Kommersant reports.

Sources tell Kommersant Sibir that Konstantinov underwent compulsory conscription in 2016-2017. Afterwards, he lived in the Novosibirsk region and worked at an ice cream factory.

In autumn 2022, the man was drafted as part of mobilisation. He was first sent to a training campground for three months. On 29 December, before being deployed to the front line, private rifleman Konstantinov ran away.

“After jumping over the fence, the soldier got a taxi and went to his mother’s. He spent around three weeks helping her at the house, taking care of his younger brothers and sisters. He’s the oldest of five children,” Kommersant writes.

At the end of January 2023, he talked with an investigator over the phone and then went to the military investigative department of Russia’s Investigative Committee affiliated with the Novosibirsk garrison.

“I’d rather go to jail than to the front line,” Vladimir Konstantinov said during an interrogation.

He pleaded guilty. After the sentence had been declared, he was taken into custody in the courtroom.

Mediazona previously reported that 1,053 criminal cases on going AWOL were filed in Russian garrison courts during the first four months of 2023. The number is bigger than that of cases during the entirety of 2022 (1,001).

Moreover, more than a half of sentences in these cases, even when it comes to the most severe charges, are suspended. Mediazona notes that this is done to send the convicts to war, seeing as according to the mobilisation decree, only servicemen with criminal convictions get dismissed from the service.

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