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Mobilized men at a collection point in Novosibirsk, September 26, 2022

‘We were just dodging bullets’ Mobilized men from Novosibirsk refused to fight after they were sent to the front with no training

Source: NGS
Mobilized men at a collection point in Novosibirsk, September 26, 2022
Mobilized men at a collection point in Novosibirsk, September 26, 2022
Kirill Kumar / TASS

Since the beginning of mobilization, Russian conscripts have often reported being sent to the frontline without adequate preparation, training, equipment, or even food and essential medications. There are also cases of soldiers being coerced to return to the frontline, in spite of their objections. Here is another story, of 12 men from Novosibirsk who tried to persuade their command to let them out of the frontline combat units.

30-year-old Aleksey (his name has been changed) from Novosibirsk served in the army around 10 years ago. He was mobilized on September 26, 2022, and a month later he was put in a train alongside other draftees and promised that training would continue when they reached their destination. Instead, reports online Novosibirsk outlet, they were stationed in a village (its name has not been disclosed) and spent the next four days building a camp in a nearby forest. On November 1, said Aleskey’s wife Elizaveta (her name has also been changed), the mobilized men were given bulletproof vests and helmets. Then they lost touch for 10 days. The next time Aleksey called his wife was November 12.

“Long story short, they were sent to the front lines immediately, under fire. Artillery was going non-stop. They found some sort of abandoned house there and slept in it. They had no food or water. They clearly had no command. They didn’t know what to do next. On November 8, he and his colleagues wrote a report saying that they couldn’t continue to serve. They handed in their weapons, and they were removed to a safe place,” Elizabeth said, reporting what her husband had told her.

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Yuliya, the wife of another mobilized man from Novosibirsk, told reporters what happened to the men during that period: “On the 3rd they were sent to the front. [...] They hid in a little house, under fire from Grad rocket launchers. I asked, ‘Did you shoot at anything during those days?’ My husband said they didn’t fire at all, they didn’t have the chance, they were just dodging bullets.” 

According to Elizaveta, in addition to her husband, 11 men refused to take part in combat. They wrote a joint report, which said: “I do not agree to carry out service in forward combat units, due to a lack of moral, psychological, and physical preparation. I agree to carry out service in units in the rear, and in already liberated territory.”

Yuliya said that those who refused to serve at the front were sent to an encampment in a border region, where military police arrived on November 15. She said they promised to transfer the mobilized men to a repair unit, though she doubts commanders will keep the promise.

“Our husbands didn’t refuse to serve! But they did ask for a medical examination, which was never carried out, and to give them some kind of work in the rear, or maybe in a factory. They’ll agree to work round the clock, just not at the front under those Grad rockets and shelling, without proper preparation,” she said.

Translation by Emily Laskin and Anna Razumnaya

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