Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation that amends Russia’s criminal code to impose a 10-year person sentence on any service member who voluntarily surrenders to Ukrainian forces.
“This is classic Putin’s Playbook – he is a master of checkmates,” Rebekah Koffler, a former DIA intelligence officer and the author of ”Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America,” told Fox News Digital. “It’s an impossible decision that Russian men face today – either you die on the battlefield or you rot in prison.”
Putin’s move comes after he announced a partial mobilization in Russia last week, introducing conscription to a conflict that has been ongoing for seven months and has rarely gone according to script for Moscow. Now, those drafted into military service will face stiff penalties if they choose to abandon the fight in Ukraine.
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Russian troops who are first time offenders, are able to flee captivity and return to their unit will be exempt from the prison sentence.
However, Koffler does not believe the move will solve the problems Russia has experienced on the battlefield, which have multiplied after a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in September.
“Not only this move will not solve the issue of Russia’s decreasing combat power in Ukraine now — partial mobilization will not produce tangible results for a few months — but it will have profound negative consequences for Russia and its military in the long-run,” she said.
Putin extended university and vocational college students a draft deferment to pursue their studies in addition to the criminal code amendment, though only students who are pursuing a secondary education for the first time will be eligible for the deferment.
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The order exempting students from the partial mobilization is retroactive to September 21, the day Putin signed the mobilization.
However, many young Russian men will still be subject to the country’s military draft, a move Koffler said could have disastrous consequences as the country battles a “demographic crisis.” Russia currently has a fertility rate of 1.5, Koffler pointed out, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 that allows a country to maintain population levels.
“Eliminating an entire segment of males, 18-55 year olds, child-producing ages, is strategically a disastrous move,” she argued. “It will have negative ripple effects not just on Russia’s military but on the future of the Russian society. It’s a tragedy for the Russian people.”