A Russian Military Commander Was ‘Executed’ For Allowing Troops to Desert – A former Russian prisoner might have been better off in a forced labor camp – at least he’d be alive. Victor Sevalnev had his jail sentence reduced after he agreed to serve with the Russian military in Ukraine.
The independent Russian news outlet The Insider reported that the 43-year-old ex-convict had been recruited by the infamous Wagner Group, the mercenary unit that has been described as Vladimir Putin’s private army. He was placed in charge of the 7th Motorized Rifle Company of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) in Eastern Ukraine.
Though the unit’s name gave it an air of credibility, it was one of several “people’s militias” that is far from a professional military fighting force.
Sevalnev had reportedly told his wife that he feared he would be shot after the “soldiers” serving under his command deserted en mass.
“Today it’s me, tomorrow — another [soldier], and that’s it. We are just material to be slaughtered. The Defense Ministry shoots people,” Sevalnev was reported to have told his wife in what was their final phone conversation.
Just five days later, on November 25, he died from shrapnel wounds and a powerful blow to the head.
His wife was notified of his death last week and was told that his body would be sent to Moscow in a zinc coffin – the type primarily used to spare families from seeing the heavily disfigured remains of their loved ones.
The reliability of the Kremlin’s version of the events leading to Sevalnev’s death – as well as those of other Russian military officers – has been questioned.
Still, it is likely that the truth may never come out. It is possible, and perhaps just as likely, that these men are serving as examples to other officers to keep their men in line.
It would be a tactic reminiscent of the NKVD once shooting their own troops for retreating.
In fact, it could be worse – as the NKVD’s “barrier troops” actually tended to “steer” the retreating soldiers back to their own lines rather than shooting them during the Second World War. It now appears Russia may take a harder stance and could begin to shoot deserters as well as commanders who can’t keep their troops in line.
According to Olga Romanova, the head of the Moscow-based organization Russia Behind Bars, which campaigns for the rights of prisoners in Russia, upwards of 40 Russian prisoners recruited by the Wagner Group have been executed in recent months.
Those unfortunate souls are just a tiny fraction of the total losses Russia has seen in Ukraine. According to recent Pentagon estimates, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers are now believed to have been killed in the fighting and that figure could impact the nation for decades to come.
One recent estimate of losses even suggests that the Russian military has now lost double the number of U.S. servicemen killed in Vietnam in just one tenth of the time. The Kremlin is currently losing around 100 soldiers daily in the battle for Bakhmut, and while the death toll likely won’t surpass 100,000 before the end of the year, it is on track to hit that grim milestone on the one year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked invasion, which began on February 24.
As previously reported, these are unsustainable casualties for a country and a military that hasn’t fully mobilized its resources for war. Russian President Vladimir Putin has chosen to distance the Russian public as much as possible from the horrors of the frontline.
Perhaps if the public knew the full truth it would be Putin’s life that is at risk.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.