While Moscow’s forces are trapped in Ukraine, many young Russians of draft age are increasingly worried about the prospect of being sent into battle. Making those fears particularly acute is an annual spring service that began Friday and aims to rally 134,500 men for a one-year tour of military service.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu promised at a meeting of the military this week that the new recruits would not be sent to the front lines or “hot spots”.
But the statement was greeted with skepticism by many in Russia who recalled the separatist wars in the southern republic of Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s, when thousands of poorly educated young men were killed.
“I do not trust them when they say they will not send conscripts into the fight. They lie all the time, ”said Vladislav, a 22-year-old who is completing his studies, and fears he may face the concept immediately after graduation. He asked that her surname not be used, for fear of retaliation.
All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 have to serve in the army for one year, but to a large extent avoid the concept for health reasons or get postponement to university students. The proportion of men avoiding the concept is particularly large in Moscow and other major cities.
Even though President Vladimir Putin and his officials say that conscripts are not involved in what Russian authorities call “the special military operation in Ukraine”, many seemed to have been captured during the first days. Videos have emerged from Ukraine of captured Russians, some of whom are shown calling their parents, and have been posted on social media.
The mother of one of the inmates said she recognized her 20-year-old son in a video, even though he was shown blindfolded.
“I recognized him by his lips, by his chin. You know, I would have recognized him by his fingers, “said the woman, who asked for security reasons only to be identified by her first name, Lyubov. “I breastfed him. I raised him. “
The Ministry of Defense was forced to step back its statements, acknowledging that some conscripts were “accidentally” sent to Ukraine and captured while serving with a supply unit away from the front.
There were allegations that some conscripts were forced before the invasion to sign military contracts that allowed them to be sent into combat – a duty that was normally reserved only for volunteers in the military. Some of the captured soldiers said they were told by their commanders that they were going to a military exercise, but suddenly fought in Ukraine.
Lyudmila Narusova, a member of the upper house of the Russian parliament, spoke in early March about a whole company of 100 men who were forced to sign such contracts and were sent into the battle zone – and only four survived. Military officials did not comment on her allegation.
Svetlana Agapitova, the human rights commissioner in St. Petersburg, said on Wednesday that relatives of seven soldiers had written to her to complain that the men had been forced to sign contracts and were sent to Ukraine against their will. She said two of them were brought back to Russia.
In recent years, the Kremlin has focused on increasing the share of volunteer contract soldiers as it seeks to modernize the military and improve its readiness. The 1 million force has more than 400,000 contract soldiers, including 147,000 in the infantry.
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