Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has backed the death penalty being reinstated in Russia after four students opposed to the Ukraine war sabotaged railways in the country.
Four Russian and foreign students, aged between 17 and 18, were arrested in the city of Ufa, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Bashkortostan in western Russia, according to local media reports.
They are accused of organizing a terrorist act, state-run news outlet Kommersant reported, citing a press release from a district court.
According to court papers, the teenagers attempted at least five times to damage railway electrical equipment in protest against the war, which began after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February.
The students reportedly hoped to destabilize the work of the Bashkortostan authorities amid the war.
A RBC Ufa source in law enforcement said that the students set fire to a switching station and signaling control equipment. Two were detained on October 27 by the FSB as they attempted to start a fire.
According to Kommersant, the students will remain in custody until December 28, and they each face up to 20 years in prison.
Responding to the case, Medvedev, who is the deputy chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and leader of the United Russia Party, floated bringing back the death penalty for those suspected of wartime sabotage.
Medvedev said on his Telegram channel that the students “disabled several railway facilities in Ufa.”
He called the defendants “monsters” and said that during World War II “saboteurs” were shot.
“There was only one verdict for such scoundrels – execution without trial or investigation. Right at the crime scene,” he wrote.
“We can overcome the moratorium on the death penalty, if necessary, within the framework of the current Constitution,” Medvedev continued. “It’s a matter of choosing the means to protect the interests of our people, the state and society.”
“If you are a traitor who committed a crime during wartime, you have no… right to protect your life,” he warned, also making reference to the recent rise in Molotov cocktail attacks on military enlistment offices in Russia.
In 1996, Russia imposed a moratorium on the death penalty pending its membership into the Council of Europe.
Russia was suspended from the body the day after Putin launched a full scale invasion against Ukraine, and on September 16, it ceased to be party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Medvedev said on Telegram that reinstating capital punishment in Russia would require “a change in the legal positions of the Constitutional Court.”