Mercenaries Fighting Abroad Now Face Up to Six Years in Prison

November 15, 2013
Chechen fighter Abdallah Shishani, reportedly killed in Syria in January 2013 | RFE/RL

The following was published in the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta. It suggests that Russian militants traveling to Syria to fight for the opposition could face a stiff prison term. Of course, the language in the Constitution does not specify which conflict foreign fighters would face penalties for participating in — nor which side of conflicts that Russia is invested in. In light of the revelation that Russian fighters are participating in the Syrian war, as mercenaries fighting for the regime (see our latest translation), it remains to be seen whether these fighters will be prosecuted to the same extent under Russian law. -Ed.

New amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation came into force, according to which allows Russian citizens participating in combat operations in foreign countries to be imprisoned, according to ITAR-TASS. The amendments were made ​​to Article 208 of the Criminal Code, “Organisation of, or Participation in Illegal Armed Units.”

Now the Russians who are involved in the conflicts as part of militant groups abroad, upon their return to the home country, could be sentenced to up to six years in prison.

One of the reasons for this amendment was that Russian citizens, mostly from the Northern Caucasus, go to Syria to participate in the civil war. In late September, Sergei Smirnov, the first deputy director of the Federal Security Service, said that presently there are between 300 and 400 Russians in the Syrian territory fighting in the ranks of the armed opposition.