(MSN) The war in Ukraine has proved to be a long way from the brief military operation that Putin promised his soldiers. They are bitter, tired and don’t want to fight. Thus, the number of desertions is increasing among Russian troops. However, it’s not just war exhaustion that is driving Russian soldiers to leave their posts. Some want to leave because they believe the war they are fighting is unjust or they feel they have been sent to the slaughterhouse.
More than 2,000 cases against Russian deserters by 2023
According to the independent media outlet Mediazone, in the first six months of 2023, 2,076 criminal cases were opened against Russian soldiers accused of deserting. Radio Free Europe points out that this is double the number of cases brought against suspected defectors in 2022 and three times higher than in 2021, before the war in Ukraine. However, most analysts agree that the real figures are probably higher, since Putin prefers to keep all information about the state of his armed forces secret.
The media’s work in the war, when soldiers could still give up the war
Since the beginning of the war, the media has had the opportunity, on a few occasions, to speak to Russian soldiers who decided they didn’t want to fight. One of them told Reuters anonymously: “This is not our war” and revealed that the Russian government doesn’t even keep its promises. “Back in Russia, we were lined up and told that everyone would receive a per diem, extras for fighting and medals,” he continued. However, none of this was provided, with which he and 13 other soldiers quit the war.
“We didn’t know we were going to war”
At the start of the fighting, Ukraine released videos of some of those who were captured being allowed to speak to their mothers on the phone and admitting that they were firing at civilian targets. Incidentally, these recordings are contrary to the Geneva Convention: prisoners cannot be shown or used in any way (even as propaganda). Another video shared by Ukraine that went viral showed soldiers saying that they returned home feeling “cheated” because they had been told that they were only going to carry out military maneuvers.
At the beginning of 2022, CNN obtained the testimony of an officer (whose name has not been revealed) who was sent to Crimea and who, by surprise, found himself penetrating Ukrainian territory. He claimed that he had not been informed that he would be helping with the “denazification” of Ukraine and so had his colleagues.
“What am I doing here? Many didn’t understand what it was all for and what we were doing here,” he explained. The soldier told the media outlet that he felt the need to hide his face because he was ashamed of invading Ukrainian land. As the Russians came under heavier attack from the Ukrainians, the soldier said: “For the first week or so, I was in a state of aftershock. I didn’t think about anything.” The man also told CNN that, after seeing the rejection that the Russian presence caused among the people of Ukraine, he decided to leave. Russian soldiers could legally resign during the first five months of the war. The officer CNN spoke to took advantage of the opportunity, although he was warned that criminal proceedings could be opened against him.
Everything changed with the partial mobilization
However, as of September 2022, Putin issued a partial mobilization decree that disallowed those already fighting in Ukraine to leave military service.
Now there is no “easy” way out. As a result, most soldiers who want to leave the war can only do so illegally. According to Politico, the only legal way out of the fighting in Ukraine now is death, medical discharge, imprisonment or reaching the mandatory retirement age.
Ukraine claims that Russian soldiers are deserting on a daily basis
The Ukrainian authorities claim that Russian soldiers desert on a daily basis. However, due to the war propaganda, it is difficult to say how accurate this information is. According to The Moscow Times, in an article published in December 2023, “requests for help from Russian soldiers to desert their units in Ukraine have almost doubled in recent months”.
Russian press admits there are many deserters
The newspaper reported that the ‘Idite Lesom’ or “Get Lost” group, which helps Russians who don’t want to fight in the war in Ukraine, received 577 requests from September to November 2023, which represents an 89% increase compared to the data from June to August 2023.
*** Translated by DEFCONPress FYI Team ***