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Ukrainian army deserters complain to France’s Le Figaro about poor service conditions

As the paper specified, 23 out of 30 team members who survived refused to return to the frontlines

PARIS, June 9. /TASS/. Soldiers of Ukrainian territorial defense forces complained to a correspondent of the Paris-based Le Figaro daily about a shortage of weapons and legal harassment against them for abandoning army positions, according to a report published on Thursday.

"This was awful. We were trained for just a day and a half and given a Kalashnikov assault rifle each," one of the Ukrainian soldiers complained, adding that he had initially hoped to exercise his military duty in his home town in western Ukraine.

Another member of the Ukrainian territorial defense unit said that after some of their fellow servicemen had been killed in Russian artillery and air strikes, they "convinced their group commander to retreat" but he was also killed upon their pullback and now they face judicial proceedings.

As the paper specified, 23 out of 30 team members who survived refused to return to the frontlines. They are now in the town of Bakhmut awaiting a court’s decision.

"The problem is not only that many recruits are insufficiently trained but that some field commanders are unable to exercise command and control, which reflects the snags that had existed even before the conflict," Ukrainian lawyer Dmitry Sergeyenko told the paper.

"Because of this law [on sending territorial defense personnel to the combat zone], recruits barely trained to handle arms are sent against their will to situations in which they should never have been. Our clients, for example, are victims of physical and psychological shock. These are civilians with little experience and almost no training whom the military command has sent to be slaughtered," the lawyer added.

Legislative vagueness

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (the country’s parliament) passed a bill on May 3 permitting territorial defense forces to carry out assignments in combat areas. Initially, the territorial defense units were required to operate within the boundaries of a specific territory. As the law enters into legal force, it will extend the territorial defense teams’ area of responsibility to the entire territory of Ukraine, including combat operation zones.

According to the information on the Rada’s website, parliament speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk signed the bill on May 6. On the same day, the bill was intended to be forwarded to the Ukrainian president for signing. However, as the news agency Ukrainskiye Novosti reported on June 7, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has held back from signing the document for a month already, which is in breach of the rules established by the country’s Fundamental Law.

In compliance with article 94 of Ukraine’s Constitution, the president is required to sign a bill forwarded to his office within 15 days or return it to parliament with his reasoning and formulated proposals. Should the president fail to return the bill within the established timeframe, the document is deemed as approved and must be signed and published.