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Russian Soldiers Say Deserting ‘Only Way to Stay Alive’ in Ukraine

155mm like the ones used in Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Blasting a 155mm Howitzer round during a gun calibration exercise at Destiny Range, Soldiers from 1-9 Field Artillery make the earth tremble as they fire over 30 rounds from an M109A6 Paladin, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Mosul, Iraq, April 23.

Statements by Mediazona from contract soldiers serving in Russia’s 155th Naval Infantry Brigade revealed just how dire the situation is for Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

They describe how hundreds of casualties have been endured by his brigade alone and suggest that deserting the battlefield is the only way for troops to survive.

Ukraine and Russian Soldiers Deserting

In one statement from early November, a soldier describes how the Marines of the 155th separate guards brigade appealed to Primorsky Governor Krai Oleg Kozhemyako about the heavy casualties being endured.

The casualties were allegedly “kept secret” by their command, and the appeal eventually made its way to the Grey Zone Telegram channel, which is believed to be run by an individual with inside knowledge of Wagner Group operations.

“We were once again thrown into this incomprehensible offensive by General Muradov and his pal Akhmedov so that Muradov could earn extra points with [Chief of the General Staff Valery] Gerasimov while Muradov had already promised Akhmedov a Hero of Russia title,” the November 6 statement revealed, adding that the brigade lost more than 300 men and 50% of vehicles in just one brigade.

“And this is just our brigade. The district commanders and Akhmedov hide this and fabricate lower casualty figures out of fear of being held accountable,” the statement continued.

On November 22, another soldier contacted Mediazona with his own account of what is happening on the front line.

The troop said that out of 4,000 men – some of whom were on the front lines and others in the rear manning artillery – between 450 and 500 were killed in Pavlivka, Donetsk Oblast alone.

Appeals from the soldiers were not treated in the manner they expected, however, with the troop explaining how they initially hoped military command would “change tactics.”

Instead, objectors were reportedly threatened with criminal cases, and when the unnamed troop filed a refusal report, it “vanished miraculously.”

Claims like this have been made before, too. In May, more than 100 soldiers from the Russian National Guard were fired after disobeying orders and refusing to fight in Ukraine.

Soldiers Are Demoralized and Considering Deserting

The soldier also described how Russian troops in Donetsk are increasingly demoralized and that Russia’s military leadership believes that awarding survivors with medals is enough to justify the war and “forget” about what is happening on the front lines.

“Near Pavlivka, we lost about 450 men. Overall, the toll is up to 900 men wounded and killed, more than half killed,” the soldier explained, adding that some men are “thinking of deserting.”

“I have always served the motherland faithfully and used to condemn this kind of thinking, but now it is probably the only way we can stay alive. I cannot understand why they treat people like that when there is not enough manpower and mobilization is in progress.”

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.