Zelensky signs law increasing consequences for desertion

President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law on Jan. 24 strengthening the criminal liability of military personnel for desertion or the failure to comply with combat orders.

The law creates stricter punishments for disobedience in the military and desertion. It also prohibits Ukrainian courts from reducing or lessening any of the punishments.

Sentences and fines for violations have increased, and inspections of servicepeople for intoxication will also be introduced.

The law was supported by Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who in December called for stricter legal liability for actions such as desertion, leaving a military unit or place of service, and disobedience to combat orders. 

According to Zaluzhnyi, there were gaps in the previous legislation that only allowed for fines or probationary sentences, which were unfair and contributed to the loss of personnel, territory, and civilians on the front lines.

On Dec. 15, a petition was published asking Zelensky to veto the bill, gaining more than the 25,000 signatures necessary for consideration by the president's administration.