According to Russian human rights attorneys and campaigners, some Russian servicemen are refusing to combat in Ukraine because of their experiences on the front lines at the commencement of the invasion. One of these soldiers has been interviewed by the media.
Sergey – not his actual name – spent five weeks fighting in Ukraine earlier this year and adds, “I don’t want to go [back to Ukraine] to kill and be murdered.”
He has returned to Russia after seeking legal assistance in order to escape being sent back to the front lines. Sergey is said to be one of hundreds of Russian troops who sought similar counsel.
Sergey claims that his experience in Ukraine has left him traumatized.
“I had imagined we were the Russian army, the world’s most super-duper,” the young guy sadly adds. Instead, he claims, they were expected to operate without even the most basic of tools, such as night vision gear.
“We were like a litter of blind kittens.” Our army astounds me. It wouldn’t be too expensive to equip us. “How come it wasn’t done?”
Sergey enlisted in the army as a conscript; most Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to serve in the military for one year. However, after a few months, he decided to accept a two-year professional deal that included a wage.
Sergey was transported to the Ukrainian border in January for what he was informed were military training. He was told to cross the border a month later, on February 24, the day Russia started its invasion. His troop came under assault almost immediately.
“Well, as you will have figured out by now, this is not a joke,” their leader declared as they paused for the evening on an abandoned farm.
Sergey claims he was taken aback.
“The first thing that sprang to mind was, ‘Is this really happening to me?'”
They were shelled constantly, he said, both while driving and when stopped overnight. In his 50-person unit, ten individuals were murdered and ten others were injured. Almost every single one of his colleagues was under the age of 25.
He heard about Russian personnel who “didn’t know how to shoot and couldn’t differentiate one end of a mortar from another” due to their lack of expertise.
His convoy, which was traveling through northern Ukraine, allegedly disintegrated after only four days when a bridge they were going to cross burst, killing friends ahead of them.
Sergey claims he had to overtake teammates trapped inside a blazing truck in front of him in another occasion.
“It was either a grenade launcher or something else that blew it up.” It caught fire, and [Russian] soldiers were inside. We drove past it and continued on, shooting as we did so. I didn’t return the stare.”
His battalion continued on through the Ukrainian countryside, but he said there was a distinct absence of planning. Soldiers were ill-equipped for the job of capturing a huge city, and reinforcements failed to arrive.
“We didn’t use helicopters; instead, we marched in a column, as if we were going to a parade.”
He believes his superiors planned to conquer important cities and strongholds swiftly, assuming that the Ukrainians would just surrender.
“With brief overnight pauses, no trenches, and no scouting, we raced on.” We didn’t leave anyone in the back, so there was no protection if someone came in from behind and hit us.
“I believe that [so many] of our soldiers perished as a result of this.” Many losses may have been prevented if we had proceeded slowly and searched the routes for mines.”
Sergey’s complaints about a lack of equipment have also surfaced in phone calls allegedly between Russian servicemen and their families, which the Ukrainian security services intercepted and uploaded online.
Sergey was taken back over the border to a Russian camp at the beginning of April. Troops had been evacuated from northern Ukraine and looked to be reorganizing in preparation for an offensive in the east. He was ordered to return to Ukraine later that month, but he informed his commander he wasn’t ready to leave.
According to Russian human rights lawyer Alexei Tabalov, army leaders aim to frighten contract troops into sticking with their groups. However, he emphasizes that Russian military legislation has terms that allow soldiers to reject to battle if they so want.
Sergei Krivenko, a human rights activist, says he is unaware of any prosecutions of people who refuse to return to the front lines.
That isn’t to imply that charges aren’t being pursued.
Since the beginning of April, independent Russian media have reported hundreds of examples of soldiers refusing to go to Ukraine again.