Russian officer sentenced to 6.5 years for deserting amid war he opposed
(Reuters) – A Russian security officer who fled the country because he objected to the invasion of Ukraine has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in high-security prison, the Taiga.info news website reported on Friday.
Federal Protective Service Major Mikhail Zhilin, 36, fled to Kazakhstan last year when Russia announced a conscription campaign, illegally crossing the border through woods while his wife and children drove through a checkpoint.
Zhilin sought refugee status in the former Soviet republic but his request was denied and authorities there stopped him from leaving for Armenia.
Kazakhstan handed him over to Russia late last year, leading to the rare conviction of an officer for desertion.
According to Taiga.info, a court in the city of Barnaul found Zhilin, who had worked on communications at a security facility in Siberia, guilty of deserting and illegal border crossing and, in addition to the prison term, stripped him of his officer rank.
A Barnaul court clerk reached by telephone confirmed that Zhilin has been sentenced but declined to provide any further information.
Hundreds of thousands of Russians fled from their country because of last year’s mobilisation and many of them moved to Kazakhstan, which shares the longest continuous land border with Russia.
But unlike them, Zhilin had access to information deemed secret due to his work at the agency responsible for President Vladimir Putin’s security, and Moscow was keen to get him back, his family told Reuters last year.
(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov)