This is consistent with observations I heard from the Azov battalion.
Several dozen contract soldiers in a Russian motorized rifle brigade based in Maikop have deserted in order to avoid being sent to fight in Ukraine. They now face up to ten years in prison, are being kept in “inhuman” conditions, and are constantly urged to agree to go to Ukraine as “volunteers,” according to a Moscow newspaper.
In today’s “Gazeta,” Vladimir Dergachev and Elizaveta Mayetnaya suggest that this is a growing problem, noting that between 2010 and 2014, there were only 35 cases in which soldiers were charged with being absent without leave of desertion while in the first half of 2015 alone, 62 were found guilty of such offenses (gazeta.ru/politics/2015/07/10_a_7633125.shtml).
The actual numbers may be much higher. A lawyer who is involved with the defense of five of the soldiers who have been charged told the two Moscow journalists that commanders had told her that the number of soldiers facing these charges is so large that it has overwhelmed the military justice system there.
One of the soldiers facing charges has filed a brief with the court, the two journalists say. It specifies that he “did not fulfill a criminal order since he did not want to go against the oath which [he] took and did not want to participate in military actions on the territory of Ukraine.”
Other soldiers involved say they were under intense pressure to volunteer to fight in Ukraine, with senior officers from other units coming and offering them as much as 8,000 rubles (160 US dollars) a day. But according to the lawyer, Tatyana Chernetskaya, “no one wants to fight in the Donbas for 8,000 a day as the recruiters promised or even for 28,000.”