Dozens of Russian soldiers are facing trial for fleeing their unit, fearing deployment to Ukraine, a news site and a lawyer for five of the men said Saturday. The popular Gazeta.ru website said several dozen soldiers would be prosecuted after fleeing a training ground in southern Russia where they were under pressure to “volunteer” to fight in Ukraine. The troops had freely enlisted for the army and are not draftees, it said.

It is the latest report to allege Russian soldiers are being sent to eastern Ukraine despite Moscow’s insistence that only “volunteers” are fighting alongside the pro-Russian separatists. The defence ministry said that only four soldiers named in the report are under investigation for “disciplinary offences”, denying dozens were involved, the Echo of Moscow radio station reported. FULL REPORT