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The Russian independent media writes about how Moscow hides its military causalities in Ukraine and the Russians who oppose the war

A body of a dead Russian soldier, who died during fights, lies in a yard in the Mala Rohan village, near Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine, 31 March 2022.
©EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY  |   A body of a dead Russian soldier, who died during fights, lies in a yard in the Mala Rohan village, near Kharkiv, northeast Ukraine, 31 March 2022.

The Russian independent media continue to report on the war in Ukraine and its impact on the people of Russia, on the Russian soldiers who have disappeared during the invasion and the families that are looking for them, on young people who are forced to sign contracts to fight in the war, or on Russian citizens protesting against the aggression, even if they risk their freedom and their lives.

MEDIAZONA: Relatives of missing Russian soldiers find out they are dead from colleagues or on the Internet

“Disappeared under unknown circumstances” is the status attached to the Russian soldiers whose bodies have been left on the battlefield. Soldiers' relatives find out they are dead from colleagues or see photos of their corpses on Telegram channels. Military commissariat staff tell them not to give up hope and to wait. MEDIAZONA spoke with the families of some of the soldiers killed in Ukraine.

“They left them there and ran, each to their way”

Tatiana, the 24 year-old military paratrooper Vladimir Lucihin’s girlfriend, saw the photo of his body on the Ukrainian Telegram channel “Look for your own”, on the night of March 31st. “In the morning she called me crying: ‘They put Vova’s picture there’”,  says Alexei Jiharev, the soldier’s uncle.

The photo, in which the relatives recognized the soldier who had disappeared a month earlier, shows in the foreground the face of a young man with bruised forehead and clogged eyes. “It’s clear from the photo that he was kept in a refrigerator, his face is frosty”, Jiharev says. “In the second photo there is a label with the family name Lucihin on it”. 

Alexei remembers that on the same Telegram channel, shortly before, the military cards of Vladimir's colleagues from the 247the Guards Air Assault Regiment of the Cossacks in Stavropol had been published.  They later published photos of the dead bodies. “Deceased, deceased, deceased.  He wasn’t there, so we were still hoping that he was alive somewhere, that he had been taken prisoner”.  […]

On March 10, Vladimir's girlfriend received a phone call from a colleague of his. He told her that he was with other guys in a hospital in Rostov-on-Don, but that her boyfriend was not with them - Vladimir and three other soldiers had died. […]

After the phone call from the hospital, Lucihin's relatives, Samohin, Breev and Varfolomeev asked the military commissariat for information on the whereabouts of the soldiers, but they were not in the official lists of the dead. There was no information about them on the hotline of the Ministry of Defense either.

In one of his uncle's conversations with Lieutenant-Colonel Roman Shutnikov, he mentioned that Lucihin and other soldiers from that unit had been reported “missing”.  “I don't understand, what does 'missing' mean? asked the deceased's uncle. Did the soldier leave the military unit without permission? Shutnikov told me: “Missing means that the solider is neither on the list of the dead, nor is he alive anymore”.

Alexei says he doesn't understand why the bodies weren't taken from the battlefield. He expressed fear that his nephew would be buried in a mass grave in Ukraine. “The wife of one of the deceased soldiers asked an officer to bring the bodies, since they knew they were there”, Alexei says. “And he replied: ‘Do you want me to ride my personal car and bring them from Ukraine?’”.

“I’m waiting for our troops to take over Kharkov and I will go there myself”

The father of Dmitry Krasotkin, a 20 year old contract soldier, learned of his son's death from a colleague of his from the Pskov military unit no. 64044. He is listed as missing in the military unit’s records. […]

He doesn’t say how he managed to contact his son's colleagues: “They are not allowed to speak, they were ordered to say nothing”.  […] Alexander says that he is “tired of fighting the system” and does not believe the soldiers who are trying to give hope to the relatives of the missing. “I’ve been everywhere for a month, nobody’s told me anything”, he says. “Nobody is going to look for them, we understand that very well;  when we take over Kharkov then we will go to look for their bodies, to ask the civilians if they saw them… we have no other solution. I can't go shoveling there by myself now, because the Russian troops aren't there yet”. […]

MEDUZA: It’s not clear who are we fighting and for what

MEDUZA writes how the Russian soldiers are sent to war on contract and they cannot say no  

The exact number of Russian soldiers currently in Ukraine is unknown; according to some data, 100,000 people have taken part in the invasion. Several relatives of the contract solders told Meduza that they are not allowed to leave, being threatened with criminal cases for desertion and treason.

“I would make the fire in the stove and guard the car of the military unit.”

Ivan was born in Kemero, in 2001. He was hired by the army under contract from the beginning to earn some money, a salary of 31 thousand rubles a month. He was also promised to do the service nearby, he hoped to go in the morning at work, and to return back home in the evening. Working hours: from 9.00 to 18.00.

On November 1, Ivan signed the contract and was sent to the town of Iurga, not far from Kemerovo, to the military unit no. 21005. He did his military service there until the end of December, when he was sent for “exercises” Elnea, in the Smolensk region. He was “on the field” until mid-February. “There was no exercise, I would make the fire in the stove and guard what was there, the car and the military equipment”, Ivan told his mother, Svetlana.

In mid-February, the location of the deployment changed, so they moved through the Breansk region, without knowing the final destination. There, says Svetlana, her son and several soldiers were involved in an accident, the military car was hit by a truck. “They stayed there for a while.  They were probably sending them to Ukraine, but they didn't know it”.

The next phone call was on February 23. Ivan told his mother that they had allowed him to make one phone call and he would be out of reach for a week. They didn't say where they would send them. “They didn’t say much about anything, except that they would change the location”, Svetlana recalls. […]

According to Svetlana, when they came back, her son and several comrades asked for the termination of their contracts and requested to become conscripts and carry out the regular compulsory military service. Ivan told his mother that initially there were 11 people interested and they were promised they would go back to Iurga.

 “A wave of requests followed, from almost 250 people from two battalions. Then a representative of the FSS and one of the prosecutor's office came to them. They spent all day there. They told the young people that they risked a criminal case (for refusing to carry out the headquarters’ order and continue the service in the same way) “, Svetlana says.

After that, “under pressure from the prosecutor’s office”, all 250 young men, including Ivan, wrote new reports agreeing to continue participating in the “special operation” and went back to war.[…]

Legal adviser Anton Serbak says the list of those who can start such “educational discussions” in military units is long. Any leader, the commander of the unit, of the district, the prosecutor's office, the FSS, “anyone can scare you. This is not regulated by law: it is neither prohibited, nor is it allowed. They say they “discussion”, but in fact, most likely they use psychological aggression, threats, humiliation, fear, sometimes even promises. “They can promise anything”, the legal adviser says.

According to Svetlana, her son and other soldiers were threatened with criminal cases, imprisonment for disobedience and desertion. “Do these children want something like this, to have their lives ruined at 20? Of course not. […] All the boys agreed under pressure. We, the parents, were shocked”.  […]

ISTORIES: “Why are you against your homeland”?

In Russia, the participants in anti-war protests risk 15 years in prison. ISTORIES reports on those who wouldn’t  be stopped by that.  

Two months have passed since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, according to OVD-Info, fifteen thousand five hundred people have been detained during anti-war protests. Russian citizens protested more in the first weeks of the war. A record number of arrests was registered on March 6: 5,558 people in 77 cities. Law enforcement officers hit the protesters, beat them with sticks, choked them, hit them in the stomach, in the face, hit their heads against the wall and twisted their arms.

According to OVD-info, at present, 84 people are listed in criminal cases, of which 26 are prosecuted according to the new law on the public dissemination of false information about the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and risk up to 15 years in prison. A thousand protesters are in custody.

People have been arrested for holding placards with quotes from the Bible – “You shall not kill” - or quotes from Putin's speech at the May 9 parade last year -  “The war caused so much misfortune. Those who are again making up aggressive plans cannot be forgiven” -  or for showing packages of products that have the syllable ‘mir’(peace) part of their names -  such as the “Miratorg” meat products - for saying no to war, for carrying placards with “Two Words” written on them or with just  a line of asterisks – “*** *****”(suggesting “no to war”), for carrying the Ukrainian flag or for wearing yellow and blue boots.

People are reported to the police by neighbors, acquaintances, students or colleagues for their open position against the war, for anti-war statements or even for a black coat and a white rose in their hand. […]

Daria Heikinen, 18, is a tik-tok blogger, leader of the “Maiak” opposition social-political movement in St. Petersburg, who has been openly campaigning against the war, informing her subscribers and writing petitions: “[…] I could leave Russia , but I don't want to, because it's a matter of principle: if the power tries to drive me away or make me shut up, I just won’t do it, on principle. It's my inner protest. This is my homeland, I was born here, I live here, I haven’t been abroad much. From the beginning of the war, they have written (threats) on my door, smeared it with paint, put mounting foam in the door lock, soiled it with feces. They have written on my door that I’m a Finnish Nazi, because my name is Finnish, and they have threatened me, “Wait for us, we're coming”. I think it's a kind of pressure for me to leave the country.

I don't think that those who are against the war are just a few. Sociological surveys in such situations do not work, because there is a criminal article for the word war “. […]

Dmitry Silin, 52, an entrepreneur from Ivanovo, is offering passersby, for free, the dystopian novels “1984” by George Orwell and “We” by Evghenii Zameatin. “Together with my assistant, lawyer and blogger Anastasia Rudenko, we’ve been giving these books for free since mid-April. We’ve been out with them seven or eight times and we have given some 400 books. Usually, students take them, because we live near the University. People older than 30-35 pass by. The students, however, react positively to our action, they take the books. Half of them have said they’ve already read “1984”.  Some ask what this book is about and why we give it away.  We answer that we want people to read more, watch less TV and have their own opinion. […] “

Marina Antonova, 33, is a painter and Instagram-blogger in Moscow. She does her anti-war work on public transportation. Her friends recall how “on the first day of the war, Marina drew a picture - the dove of peace against the background of the Ukrainian flag - and went out to a “silent protest”.  She decided to go on public transport with her work, to attract people's attention. At first, Marina would go to crowded places. When the arrests and fining started, the artist continued to protest in Moscow's more remote neighborhoods. […]

Marina has been staging such small gestures to support the spirit of society in general, given that although bigger action would be very dangerous, one cannot just sit doing nothing. “Now they (the authorities) are waging two wars at the same time: one here with us, another in Ukraine […]".

Tags: Ukraine , Russia , War in Ukraine
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