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Shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine ( more specifically the Donbass ), President Zelensky issued a law under which all men +18 years of age were required to take up arms against Russians and their compatriots in the Donbass region. Although a significant part of the population speaks Russian, this language was strictly banned. Schools were no longer allowed to teach the Russian language and citizens were not allowed to speak it. 11 million Russian books were destroyed. The hate propaganda against Russians took on unprecedented proportions and so did the sanctions against all those who refused to take up arms. Anyone who tried to flee was considered a deserter, arrested, detained and often shot on the spot regardless of whether the person was military or an ordinary civilian. This was captured on camera. Not once but many times.

To counter the further exodus of deserting soldiers and civilians who (un)willingly acquired the capacity of military, a legal framework was needed that provides for stricter punishments and prohibition of clemency.

On 13 December 2022, the Verkhovna Rada ( parliament ) approved, with 270 votes in favour, draft law No 8271 on the aggravation of responsibility for military personnel. That same day, the bill was signed by parliament speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk and handed over to Zelensky for signature. Zelensky signed the bill on 24 January 2023 and sent it back to parliament.

The law severely restricts judicial power. It excludes the possibility for judges to exempt military from punishment or impose on them a milder punishment than that provided for in the current Ukrainian criminal code in cases of disobedience, disobeying an order, threat or violence against a superior, leaving a place of service unauthorised, desertion, leaving a battlefield unauthorised or refusal to use weapons. The law increases the penalties for military personnel and civilians called upon to take up arms.

Time limits and fines for offences have been increased and an inspection by the military law enforcement agency of reservists and conscripts for drunkenness has also been introduced.

The General Staff believes that in war conditions, it is fair not to impose more lenient punishments on the military than those provided by law. "Such offences weaken the defence capability and may fatally affect the performance of combat duties by other law-abiding soldiers," the General Staff said in a statement.

Ukraine has long since ceased to be a democratic rule of law. Zelensky and his entourage do as they please, all available legal instruments notwithstanding.

Indeed, on 15 December 2022, Petition No 22/173526-ep was published on the presidential website, calling for a veto on the law. In the first day, 28,000 signatures were collected, exceeding the required number for consideration by the president. The number of signatures from human rights activists reached more than 31,000 but so far without any effect. Zelensky has not yet responded to the petition. He must take position on the petition by 15 April 2023.

If he does not veto the bill ( as he has been asked to do ) the bill degenerates into a law that will cause a lot of bad blood.

There has been a lot of criticism of the bill.

An MP from the Golos party and military, retired SBU colonel Roman Kostenko strongly opposes the law.

He stated : "We do not apply the same rules even to collaborators and traitors that we want to apply to our military. "

"We now have in the army for the most part not professional soldiers, but conventional teachers, agronomists and taxidrivers of the past. They have seen 152mm shells exploding every day, many dead bodies and bombed buildings. They should be treated differently, not treated as being caught in the back and sentenced to five years in prison.

"For example, I am against a situation where a man mobilises, goes through a week of training, comes under artillery fire, gets scared and retreats, and for that he then gets five years,"

"Even people who have raped and killed have access to the institution of clemency," explained lawyer and military officer Masi Nayem. " With this law, they want to take these rights away from the military. This is wrong. Even from the point of view of attitude towards the armed forces. Not to mention that it fundamentally takes away their right to justice."

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