War-weary Russian soldiers have been thrown in jail by their commanders after they refused to fight in Ukraine over the invasion’s “total disregard for human life,” a new report claims.
There have been an estimated 140 soldiers put behind bars in eastern Ukraine, with some allegedly guarded by pro-Moscow mercenaries in a military base surrounded by land mines, the Guardian reported.
Now, at least four want their superiors punished for the seemingly illegal arrests, according to the newspaper.
“As a result of what I believe were tactical and strategic mistakes made by my commanders … and their total disregard for human life … I made the decision not to continue in the military operation,” one soldier jailed for over a week said in written testimony to prosecutors, which was observed by the Guardian.
The soldier, identified by the alias “Vladimir,” testified he was held in the town of Bryansk with about 80 soldiers guarded by the shadowy organization Wagner Group. Members of Wagner told the captive soldiers that mines surrounded the military base where they were being held — and threatened to shoot anyone trying to escape, the soldier wrote.
“We were fed once a day at lunchtime. There was no basic hygiene,” the soldier said in the testimony, according to the Guardian. “The whole time, not a single document was provided that would explain our arrest. We were illegally jailed.”
The Russian defense ministry didn’t respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.
Vladimir Putin’s forces launched an invasion of Ukraine in February but never formally declared war, meaning soldiers can be fired but shouldn’t be jailed, an attorney who has represented reluctant soldiers told the newspaper. Hundreds were discharged after refusing to take part in the invasion, the Guardian previously reported.
As Russia has faced a surprisingly effective resistance from Ukraine, there have been reports of low soldier morale and chaos among the commanding ranks. The soldier’s testimony said war-weary soldiers were urged by superiors to return to the fight.
“Some soldiers, under the threat of violence, were simply driven out to unknown destinations, they have not been seen since,” said “Vladimir,” according to the Guardian.