HOME SECRETARY PRITI PATEL has been urged to make a public offer of asylum to Russian soldiers who refuse to fight in Ukraine. 

Politicians of several parties have backed the call, including the SNP’s Constitutional Affairs Spokesperson, Tommy Sheppard MP.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain’s leading pacifist group, has written to Priti Patel and Boris Johnson to highlight evidence that hundreds of Russian forces personnel are questioning or disobeying their orders.

The PPU has remained in contact with Ukrainian and Russian peace activists throughout the war. It understands, from contacts in the Russian peace movement, that there has been an increase in the number of conscripts mentioning their opposition to war in Ukraine when applying for exemption as conscientious objectors.

The PPU says that an offer of asylum from the UK would encourage disobedience among Putin’s troops. It says that if British ministers want to end the war, they need to support people resisting it on the ground, rather than sending more and more weapons to Ukraine.

Statements from Ukrainian and Russian pacifists were read out at the ceremony to mark International Conscientious Objectors’ Day (15 May) in Tavistock Square, London.

The Russian Movement of Conscientious Objectors declared: “In the course of the months of warfare, we have witnessed a totally new phenomenon: cases in which professional soldiers refuse to participate in the special operation and demand to terminate their contracts. We wish to express our special gratitude to those soldiers and police officers who had the courage to refuse to kill and die in a foreign land.”

Geoff Tibbs of the PPU said: “There are already hundreds of Russian soldiers who are questioning or refusing orders. If Boris Johnson and his ministers are serious about trying to end war in Ukraine, they should go beyond gung-ho military rhetoric and step up practical support for people resisting war. We are confident there would be widespread public support in the UK for an offer of asylum to Russian soldiers who refuse to fight.”

Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East and the Scottish National Party’s Constitutional Affairs Spokesperson, said: “The Russian government is asking young conscripts to join a war of aggression. Any of them who are brave enough to say no to Putin’s orders risk jail and should be entitled to asylum.”

On 12 May, Mikhail Benyash, a lawyer advising Russian soldiers, was quoted by the Guardian saying that “hundreds and hundreds” of Russian soldiers had contacted his team to ask for advice on refusing to fight.

* Source: Peace Pledge Union