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‘The commanders don’t give a shit about us’ In one Russian brigade, around 700 soldiers have refused to fight. But their superiors won’t let them leave.
On August 15, the Russian investigative news outlet iStories released an investigation that included interviews with multiple soldiers involved in crimes against civilians in the Ukrainian village of Andriivka. After the article was published, other soldiers from the same brigade contacted the journalists to confirm the accounts, as well as to report that hundreds of their fellow servicemen are being denied their right to resign from the army. With permission, Meduza is publishing a translated summary of the new report.
Military servicemen from Russia’s 64th Motor Rifle Brigade told the investigative outlet iStories that around 700 contract soldiers have tried to resign from the service — but their command hasn't let them.
The soldiers reached out to journalists after iStories published an article that described how Russian soldiers stole from and murdered civilians in Andriivka, a village in Ukraine’s Kyiv region. After the outlet learned the soldiers’ names and contacted them, one of them — 21-year-old Daniil Frolkin — confessed to journalists that he killed a civilian on orders from his commander.
Other soldiers from the brigade who spoke to iStories after the investigation was published confirmed Frolkin’s account. The outlet didn’t reveal their names for safety reasons.
One of the soldiers, who claimed to be in Ukraine, said that he was recently transferred in the direction of Kherson as part of the 64th Brigade. According to him, 80 percent of the brigade, including himself, want to resign from the army, but their commanders won’t let them. “I’ve written multiple refusals [to fight]. Each time, they tell me to go fuck myself,” he said.
iStories reported that one of the individuals refusing to let the soldiers break their contracts is Deputy Brigade Commander Lieutenant Colonel Andrey Prokurat. According to Frolkin, it was Prokurat who ordered him to shoot a civilian in Andriivka.
“I constantly see guys going [to the command post] to resign. Just like me, they’re told that they can’t leave, that it’s not possible, to 'keep on serving,' and to go fuck themselves. As a result, everyone is fleeing and going to the base [in Khabarovsk] at their own expense so they can declare their refusal there. I know someone who left for the base, and when he got there, the personnel department told him that around 700 people had already come and resigned,” said one soldier.
It’s impossible to leave Ukraine, the soldier said, because he’s surrounded by checkpoints. Some soldiers who refused to fight, he said, including Daniil Frolkin, managed to leave for the unit from a temporary deployment point in Russia’s Belgorod region before the brigade was sent towards Kherson.
“The soldiers who left had their forms signed by their deputy commander, but our command refuses to sign. The command simply does not give a shit about any of the soldiers,” he told iStories. He said that even soldiers whose contracts expired in May are being forced to continue serving, though they are being paid more.
Another source who spoke to iStories confirmed Frolkin’s claim that the soldiers’ commanders gave orders to kill civilians in the Kyiv region. In particular, he said that Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov ordered soldiers to fire at multiple civilian vehicles, as well as to kill “anyone you find who has a phone.”
The source also reported that Colonel Vyacheslav Klobukov stole a dinnerware set from a home in Andriivka “so that the commanders could eat from nice dishes.” He also said the commanders took refrigerators, laptops, tables, and chairs from civilians’ homes.
In addition, iStories reported that the commanders made the soldiers pose for photographs during periods of active shelling, as well as reporting false information to their own bosses. Omurbekov, for example, reportedly asked for his superiors to be told that “it wasn’t just one tank that was destroyed, it was three! No — five!”
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