‘Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich’ — Russian conscripts decry ‘criminal orders’


In a dimly lit room, a dozen or so males in Russian navy uniforms, their faces hid by darkish balaclavas, stood round a person studying out a letter addressed to President Vladimir Putin.

“As of today, we still have not received weapons and ammo,” the person stated, figuring out his group as troopers from the 580th Separate howitzer Artillery Division from Serpukhov, a metropolis 62 miles south of Moscow — a unit he stated is now stationed in Donetsk in japanese Ukraine.

“We ask that our guys to be recalled from this assault as they do not possess the necessary training or experience,” the person pleaded, his voice artificially warped to guard his id. “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, we are asking you to sort out this situation.”

This enchantment, which appeared this month on Russian Telegram channels, was only one in a flood of recent movies which have surfaced since mid-February, by which latest Russian conscripts have complained about how they’re being despatched to struggle and die on the entrance strains in Ukraine, utilizing phrases resembling “criminal orders” and “senseless assaults.”

One Russian media outlet, Vyorstka, calculated that in a single month, recruits from at the least 16 areas throughout Russia have appeared in movies interesting for Putin’s intervention.

Scores of conscripts say they’re being pressured to storm Ukrainian positions as half of Russia’s japanese offensive, with out enough coaching, ammunition or weapons. The Washington Post was unable to independently confirm the movies, a few of which had been despatched to native Russian media retailers by conscripts or their households.

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The flurry of movies indicators that the issues that plagued Russia’s invasion all through its first yr are removed from resolved, and so they provide additional proof that Moscow is counting on a grim tactic of sending waves of troopers to sure dying to melt up Ukrainian positions, forward of sending in elite, skilled fighters to then acquire floor.

The tactic is even drawing criticism from pro-Russian struggle bloggers who query its effectiveness and the pointless lack of life in what they name “meat assaults.” Recruits have complained of being handed weapons and advised to run at enemy positions and shoot. In one video, recorded on March 7, conscripts in a unit from Irkutsk, a metropolis in Siberia, complained that they had been “being sent to the slaughter.” The video was their third public enchantment to Putin.

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While the technique of sending waves of so-called “shock troops” isn’t new, it appears to have change into extra prevalent as Russia has misplaced a few of its preliminary artillery benefit. The technique has been a trademark of the Wagner mercenary group’s months-long assault on Bakhmut.

U.S. officers estimate that the Wagner group alone has misplaced 30,000 fighters because the begin of the invasion, with 1000’s killed in motion in latest weeks. Meanwhile, Russia’s protection ministry claimed final September that simply 5,937 troopers had been killed within the battle to date. Western governments challenge about 200,000 killed and wounded on the Russian aspect.

One group of recruits from Kaliningrad, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, claiming to be to be Unit 41698 of the fifth Motorized Brigade, stated that of their first assault six members of the unit had died in a single trench.

“People die for nothing,” stated one man, his face coated by a balaclava. “We are not meat. We are ready to fight with dignity, not as meat, in frontal attacks.”

Another video, apparently recorded by Regiment 1453 from Perm and the Sverdlovsk area within the Urals on March 11, spoke of “unjustified losses” and stated that in a latest assault 4 had died and 18 had been wounded.

The movies have additionally highlighted Moscow’s failure to deal with essential and embarrassing provide issues, which have led to arming troopers with World War II-era weapons and uniforms. Some of these complaints had been first raised final autumn, together with in an preliminary wave of movies, which started showing shortly after Russia started a partial navy conscription.

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Russian officers have remained noticeably mute concerning the latest movies, and to date there isn’t any signal that Putin will reply to the appeals. In November, throughout a staged assembly with of group of ladies described as troopers’ moms, Putin revealed some concern over how the mobilization and the struggle had been being perceived and he appeared to allude to the primary wave of movies.

“One should not trust the internet completely because it is full of various fake stories, deception and lies,” Putin stated. “The internet is rife with information attacks because information is just another offensive weapon in the modern world, and information attacks are just another effective type of struggle.”

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Rob Lee, a senior fellow on the Foreign Policy Research Institute in New York, stated that it was unsurprising to see such issues after a yr of struggle for which Russia was ill-prepared, and particularly after the steep casualties of latest months.

“These recruits are serving involuntarily. They are not being trained properly and do not have the right equipment. Russia is clearly using its scarce sources to arm and equip its best units,” Lee stated in a telephone interview.

“The quality of the force is worse now,” Lee stated. “Earlier in the war, the big difference was that Russia had a really substantial artillery advantage, which compensated for a lack of tactical competence in some units. Now that artillery advantage has been reduced.”

The conscripts’ appeals have been echoed by moms and daughters of mobilized fighters who’ve recorded their very own messages to Putin. In one video, published on March 12, about 20 girls appealed to Putin and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, to take away their males from the firing line.

“Our men are sent in as meat to storm well-defended points, five people against 100 well-armed enemies,” one lady stated. “They are ready to honor their duty to the motherland according to the specialization they trained for, not as assault infantry.”

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None of the movies symbolize any sort of protest of the struggle. Not a single conscript or unit overtly condemned the struggle, which the Kremlin nonetheless insists on referring to as a “special military operation.”

And in many of the movies, the recruits are cautious to say that they’re dedicated to navy obligation and wish to proceed preventing for his or her nation. Most recruits have additionally taken steps to cover their identities — an indication of their concern that any grievance might run afoul of the Kremlin’s draconian wartime censorship legal guidelines, together with harsh jail sentences for “discrediting the military.”

Last summer season, there have been additionally instances of Russian “refuseniks” being jailed in makeshift prisons in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine and being subjected to violence and abuse.

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Conscripts started posting enchantment movies final autumn, following an unpopular and sudden mobilization drive, that quickly referred to as up at the least 300,000 new troopers to plug the gaps ensuing from a string of battlefield losses.

The movies launched on this month’s wave bear many similarities to the preliminary appeals, together with complaints of absent commanders and unclear orders, poor communications, lack of kit and pointless casualties.

The complaints have additionally been echoed by Russia’s struggle bloggers, among the extra vocal critics of the path of Putin’s struggle and the ineptitude of the navy command. Analysts stated that the brand new complaints about being deployed as untrained stormtroopers may point out some failure in Russia’s efforts to coach 1000’s of troopers over the winter.

One yr of Russia’s struggle in Ukraine

Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has modified since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one yr in the past — in methods each huge and small. They have discovered to outlive and help one another below excessive circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed condo complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll by means of portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a yr of loss, resilience and worry.

Battle of attrition: Over the previous yr, the struggle has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv within the north to a battle of attrition largely concentrated alongside an expanse of territory within the east and south. Follow the 600-mile entrance line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and try the place the preventing has been concentrated.

A yr of residing aside: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial legislation stopping fighting-age males from leaving the nation, has pressured agonizing selections for thousands and thousands of Ukrainian households about steadiness security, obligation and love, with once-intertwined lives having change into unrecognizable. Here’s what a practice station stuffed with goodbyes regarded like final yr.

Deepening international divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance cast through the struggle as a “global coalition,” however a better look suggests the world is way from united on points raised by the Ukraine struggle. Evidence abounds that the trouble to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, because of its oil and gasoline exports.

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