The reasoning in your comment makes sense politically, but is not legally valid.
If Western countries prosecute citizens for fighting in Syria or Iraq, I presume they would use laws that forbid support of "terrorist" organizations.
However, young Murat Nagoyev, the 22 year old just sentenced to prison, was charged and convicted under section 3 of Article 359, the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. In translation:
"Participation by a mercenary in an armed conflict or hostilities shall be punishable by deprivation of liberty for a term of three to seven years. Note: A mercenary shall be deemed to mean a person who acts for the purpose of getting a material reward, and who is not a citizen of the state in whose armed conflict or hostilities he participates, who does not reside on a permanent basis on its territory, and also who is not a person fulfilling official duties."
This is somewhat similar to the US Neutrality Act of 1939, which forbade US citizens from entering certain war zones.
With respect to Article 359, I don't see how a Russian court could legitimately differentiate between Nagoyev and any Russian citizen who traveled to Ukraine in order to participate in armed conflict in Donbas, provided that such person accepted any money or other compensation from either Ukraine or the Russian government (presumably, many of them must have), and was not "fulfilling official duties" (which Putin and his minions have denied many, many times).
That the one was prosecuted and convicted, and the hundreds are hailed as great Russian heroes, is nauseating hypocrisy.
By the way, Putin himself should be investigated by Russia's courts for violations of Articles 353 (Planning, Preparing, Unleashing, or Waging on Aggressive War) and 354 (Public Appeals to Unleash an Aggressive War) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
I don't claim to be an expert on any law, and especially US or Russian, but it has been very controversial in the UK amongst politicians recently whether we allow people to even return after going abroad to potentially commit some of the worst crimes illegal in any country, such as fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But this would make them stateless which is illegal in international law, so the returnees are being interrogated and, I expect in some cases, prosecuted.
I read carefully your link relevant to the case of Mr Murat Nagoyev, and it gives virtually no proper details about why the man from KBR was convicted. In fact, after reading several articles on the Radio Free Europe site that you quoted from recently, it seems rather like 'RT' except bias in the other direction. But anyway, I expect, from the Russian legal system (prone to much manipulation, no doubt) the difference between Nagoyev going to Syria and 'off-duty' soldiers going to Ukraine, is that he was acting against Russian interests by fighting against their ally, President Assad. Whereas going to fight in eastern Ukraine is seen as defending Russian people who happen to live in Ukraine. I realise this is open to much debate, and personally I think the Canadian prime minister at the G20 meeting in Brisbane, when being introduced to Putin, got it spot-on when he said “Well I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine”.
"With respect to Article 359, I don't see how a Russian court could legitimately differentiate between Nagoyev and any Russian citizen who travelled to Ukraine in order to participate in armed conflict in Donbas, provided that such person accepted any money or other compensation from either Ukraine or the Russian government (presumably, many of them must have)..."
Doesn't Putin say the fighters are "volunteers"? Presumably volunteers don't get paid.
"... Putin himself should be investigated by Russia's courts for violations of Articles 353... "
He should be investigated for many other crimes too (along with Bush and Blair) but this is not likely to happen, as he is effectively the judge of all Russian judges.
Putin is calling for the end of EU sanctions. He is the one man in control of this. Pack up your arms and leave the occupied territories and stop the aggression and imperial behavior. In fact, just retire your sorry self and set off to obscurity. You do not lead where your influence is righteous, leaving chaos in attempt to cloak your Napoleon complex.
I found the legal basis of Nagoyev's prosecution and conviction in some articles in the Russian language.
I don't know whether Nagoyev actually did what he was accused of, but to my knowledge all foreign fighters on the side "jihadists" are volunteers -- nobody goes into those maelstroms (on the non-state side) for money, but rather out of personal conviction. Nonetheless, to convict Nagoyev under Article 359, the prosecution must have alleged that he received payment: otherwise, he would not have been in violation.
I'm sure that many Putin-jihadists in Donbas are volunteers, but unless they are independently wealthy some of them have bills to pay and relatives to support at home. Accordingly, I think it likely that many of them receive payment.
Further, at least a few of them are reportedly professional "soldiers of fortune" who have fought for money in many other places before Ukraine.
So _legally_ (not politically), if Nagoyev is a criminal, there are enough Russians guilty of the same crime now in Ukraine, to fill an entire cell block.
PS I found an English version of an article citing the charges:
Kavkaz Uzel means "Caucasian Knot" -- it is a news source for southern Russia and some adjacent territories. Another article (in Russian)_said he was convicted on Article 359.
I absolutely share your fear about forgetting Crimea.
Fortunately, there are reasons for hope:
1. Putin is a dickhead. If he had de-escalated and reassured everybody (by actions not words) starting in April or May, when the West was still in the mindset of "Waaah, I don' wanna deal with this," sanctions would have stayed at a few individuals, and he could have kept Crimea without any further external penalty. He didn't de-escalate.
2. Putin is a dickhead. He has relentlessly fueled (and at times, at least) directly engaged war in Ukraine. Probably, a serving Russian officer fired the missile that destroyed a jumbo jet full of civilians (it's unlikely that any of the "rebels" knew how to work the system) ... but in any case, it was people he paid, supplied and encouraged, if not his own men. He took new territory and destroyed half of Ukraine's army in August. And Putin said only a couple of weeks ago, on TV, that Russia won't allow the Donbas rebels to be defeated -- a plain admission that it is a Russian war. I am sure that many governments around the world were shocked and horrified by this chain of events, and they won't forget anytime soon.
3. Putin is a dickhead. Because he is still at his crimes on a daily basis -- a person is dying from war in Donbass every two hours -- nobody is lifting ANY sanctions.
4. Merkel cares about civilization. Although Germany was at first the biggest obstacle to sanctions, having the most to lose economically ... Angela Merkel is now Putin's most implacable opponent among the leaders of wealthy nations. Just in recent days, she has made very strong statements about the necessity to oppose Russia's lawlessness OVER THE LONG TERM. She is obviously thinking in terms of years, because Putin obviously won't simply "back down." And she repeatedly refers to the annexation of Crimea -- Merkel is not forgetting that it was a terrible blow against international order and security.
(By The Way, even though Germany participates in sanctions against Russia, and Russia has decreased imports because of its stupid counter-sanctions and its flailing economy ... Germany's exports have actually increased! The majority of German people are willing to punish Russia even if it costs jobs in Germany, but right now they are doing fine anyway.)
HOW ANGELA MERKEL FINALLY GAVE UP ON DIPLOMACY WITH PUTIN
An exceptionally interesting story from Reuters:
You may be aware that Germany's chancellor had a long talk with Putin at the recent G20 summit in Australia. According to this article, Merkel stopped confronting Putin about broken promises (since he invaded Crimea, Putin has made promises to the world or to specific leaders or diplomats, and broken them days later). Instead, she simply asked him what do you want?
All she got, were "denials and dodges."
"'He radiated coldness,' one official said of the encounter. 'Putin has dug himself in and he can't get out.'"
Have you ever noticed how his body language resembles a sulky teenager?
An interesting quote:
"German media have been complaining for months about their news sites being bombarded with pro-Russian comments. German security sources say they are part of an organized offensive steered from the Kremlin."
If, like me, you read many online articles about the crisis, you see avalanches of pro-Putin comments. I'm sure some of them are sincere Russian patriots, but many have long suspected that paid shills were at work.
I recently mentioned on this forum, how often I read comments from online newspapers or magazines that seem to be from professional pro-Putin trolls ... and a few days ago, read that indeed Russia is paying people to do this as part of their foreign policy efforts.
I just read a nice checklist by a Disqus user with the handle Buzzy123:
1) Crude references to the US
2) Ukrainian Government always referred to as Fascists, Nazis or Banderovites (?)
3) Their opponents referred to as Nazis, Zionists, or I swear, Nazi-Zionists
4) weird obscure tortured English syntax
5) Not the slightest inclination to criticize a bit of Putin's policy (after all will their masters pay them to be criticized?)
6) Intentional distortions of history -- such as 20 years of US economic and cultural aid to the Ukraine compressed into a moronic misleading phrase: $5B to overthrow Ukrainian government
7) Refusal to acknowledge that the recent vote in the Ukraine was called open and fair by virtually all observers -- instead the government is invariably referred to as "the junta" and conversely the rump "elections" overseen under the barrels of Russian guns in the Crimea and parts of the Donbass are seen as the only votes that count
8) Occasional threats to use nuclear arms -- which apparently only Russia has, and are only not being deployed right this instant because Putin is, well, so patient with the West
NATO F-16 fighter jets intercept six Russian military bombers over the Baltic Sea today, Latvian army says on Twitter. * Russian aircraft were four Tu-95, two Tu-22 * Incident occurred over neutral waters near Latvia’s maritime border
An article by Leonid Bershidsky, an experienced Kremlin watcher.
It details how severely the ruble weakened during Putin's annual state-of-the-nation speech at the beginning of December, probably because Putin offered no solution whatever to Russia's present economic woes.