Reuters reports: Some Russian soldiers are quitting the army because of the conflict in Ukraine, several soldiers and human rights activists have told Reuters. Their accounts call into question the Kremlin’s continued assertions that no Russian soldiers have been sent to Ukraine, and that any Russians fighting alongside rebels there are volunteers.
Evidence for Russians fighting in Ukraine – Russian army equipment found in the country, testimony from soldiers’ families and from Ukrainians who say they were captured by Russian paratroopers – is abundant. Associates of Boris Nemtsov, a prominent Kremlin critic killed in February, will soon publish a report which they say will contain new evidence of the Russian military presence in Ukraine.
Until now, however, it has been extremely rare to find Russian soldiers who have fought there and are willing to talk. It is even rarer to find soldiers who have quit the army. Five soldiers who recently quit, including two who said they left rather than serve in Ukraine, have told Reuters of their experiences.
One of the five, from Moscow, said he was sent on exercises in southern Russia last year but ended up going into Ukraine in an armored convoy.
“After we crossed the border, a lieutenant colonel said we could be sent to jail if we didn’t fulfil orders. Some soldiers refused to stay there,” said the soldier, who served with the elite Russian Kantemirovskaya tank division. He gave Reuters his full name but spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he feared reprisals. [Continue reading…]