Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Russian soldiers who surrender to Ukraine will be treated in a civilised manner.
In his nightly address, President Zelensky appealed to Russians to either run away or surrender once at the front. It comes after Putin signed a law doubling the punishment for Russian soldiers who desert or disobey orders. Russia’s partial mobilisation of 300,000 extra troops have also led to protests. Russian human rights organisation OVD-Info said in its reports that 700 people were arrested on Saturday, while more than 1,000 were detained earlier in the week. Russian law banned unsanctioned rallies.
Mr Zelensky urged Russians to surrender to Ukraine rather than risk being tried as a war criminal post the conflict. He said that Ukraine will treat deserters in line with international conventions and will not return anyone to Russia if they have a fear of the repercussions
On Saturday, President Putin signed a law which says that Russians who desert, refuse to fight, disobey orders or surrender will now face 10 years in prison. His moves are seen as an attempt to gain back the initiative after his forces suffered setbacks and defeats on the battlefield.
Self-styled referendums on joining Russia are in four regions of Ukraine: Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Ukraine and the West have condemned the votes as undemocratic and locals are being intimidated into voting by armed Russian soldiers. These votes would make way for Russia to annex four regions.
Sergei Lavrov, Putin’s top diplomat said that any regions who are voting to join Russia would get full protection from the country and be bound by all laws and doctrines of Russia.
The annexation will not be recognised internationally, it might lead to Russia claiming that its territory is under attack from the Western weapons supplied to Ukraine, further escalating the war.