Reuters has completed a special report identifying several former members of the Russian Army, all of whom have since left the Russian Army in protest of their deployment in Ukraine. The Reuters’ report discloses the experiences of five men and a series of letters written by other former Russian troops viewed by the news agency and human-rights organization workers. One man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity stated: “After we crossed the (Ukrainian) border, a lieutenant colonel said we could be sent to jail if we didn’t fulfil orders.” Soldiers were told to remove unit insignia and rank designations from uniforms.
Reuters also reported men were not summarily executed or, despite threats, jailed for refusing service and appeared to have some support from the Moscow-created “Citizen. Army. Rights” organization, which offers comfort to Russian servicemen. Its head, Sergei Krivenko, conceded “harsh pressure” is exerted on conscripts to serve in Ukraine and “if soldiers refuse, they are told to resign.”
According to Reuters, “some soldiers were fearful of being sent to Ukraine, were pressured into going, or disgruntled at the way they were treated after fighting there.” Another soldier added: “(Back in Russia) we were lined up and told that everyone would get a daily allowance, extras for fighting and medals. (when we did not get the extras we expected) “We decided to quit. There were 14 of us.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense has declined to comment.
This is definitive confirmation Moscow has been less than forthcoming regarding their military presence in Ukraine. This poses challenges for the Kremlin: Moscow has been caught red-handed in an endless string of lies; the Kremlin has prevaricated bravely but unconvincingly. While these men held convictions for Russia, their conscience and anger over being misled drove them from fighting in Ukraine. Mindful of provoking bitter opposition and leery of popular outcry, all world leaders have at times sought to obscure military involvement in questionable conflicts by serving up infinitely flimsy and far-fetched explanations rife with disinformation and bland assurances.
It is certainly worth noting Russian security concerns, loudly announced by Mr. Putin and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, in part led to this crisis. The Kremlin resented and feared the suffocating and threatening encroachment of NATO and the European Union (EU) toward the Russian frontier. Putin’s chicanery in Ukraine signals Russia’s willingness to fight, this time acting by its proxies in Ukraine.
How will the Kremlin wash their hands on this one?