The Kremlin accepts that all military personnel in Ukraine are there willingly and sincerely believe in the idea of denazification of the eastern neighbor.
Most materials that describe the situation in Eastern Ukraine, and especially around villages like Bucha and Andreevka, show exactly this reality. An Important Stories article from mid-August told of Russian soldiers killing young and older Ukrainians convinced they were Nazis.
But not everyone in uniform is in Ukraine of their own free will.
Several soldiers managed to contact the investigative site Meduza and tell their point of view, according to which at least 700 Russians are currently trying to leave the battlefield.
In theory, Russian law allows them to self-dismiss, but in practice it is not easy to leave the ranks of the Russian army right now.
The soldiers declined to be identified for security reasons. They say that hundreds of Russians currently want to leave the 64th Brigade – the brigade responsible for the atrocities in and around Andreevka.
At the insistence of their generals, the military is forced to kill, steal and burn cars even against their will. Some of them are mercenaries whose contracts expired as early as May of this year, yet they have not been allowed to return to their homeland.
The soldiers also say that they estimate that at least 80% of the 64th Brigade want to leave.
“I see guys going to the command post all the time to resign. Just like me, they’re told they can’t leave, that it’s not possible, so to ‘continue to serve’ and go to hell si. As a result, they all run away and go at their own expense to the base in Khabarovsk to resign there. I know one who went to the base and when he got there he was told by the personnel department that about 700 people had already come and quit,” one soldier, who wished to remain anonymous, told the independent Russian media project Important Stories.
However, according to him, it is impossible to leave Ukraine at the moment, as there are many checkpoints in place.
Another of the military says that he has been in the Kherson region since February 24 in order to ensure safe conditions for a possible referendum on joining the Russian Federation. Instead, as he himself says, soldiers are fleeing en masse because of a deteriorating mental or physical condition.
Most of these soldiers try to file reports that they are unable and unwilling to fight, but their pleas to be released are not answered.
“The soldiers who left had permits signed by the deputy commander, but our command refuses to stamp. The command just doesn’t care about any of the soldiers,” the soldier fumed.
According to the military, the Russian army is suffering heavy defeats in the region, and only 50 of the 300-man regular battalion of the 64th brigade are left. According to Radio Liberty’s estimate, out of 1,500 hapless soldiers, no more than 1,000 are left.
The exact number of Russian soldiers killed is difficult to ascertain because some of the missing are believed to be hiding in the forests of eastern Ukraine.
One of those who are certainly preventing the military from leaving is Lt. Col. Andrei Prokurat.
He is the deputy commander of the brigade and is named as the man who gave the instructions to kill and terrorize the residents of Andreevka. A constant sight is how soldiers go to the command post at the Procurate and ask to leave, but are refused and told that such a thing is impossible.
For this reason, many escape from the unit on their own, the soldier explains to Important Stories.
Even if someone manages to escape from the brigade, there is a good chance that they will be captured because there are checkpoints everywhere. “The command just doesn’t care about the military personnel,” adds the soldier, and his words were confirmed by his colleague at the front.
He also confirms that the orders to commit crimes against the locals come from the Prosecutor’s Office and the higher military. For example, the soldier tells how three or four cars with civilians passed by Andreevka, but he was nevertheless ordered to shoot at meat.
The soldiers of the 64th Brigade were allowed to grab electrical appliances, but not telephones, so that they could not be used to communicate with the outside world.
In addition, the military was forced by the authorities to lie about the exploits of the Russians in Ukraine when contacting relatives.
“They told us that we didn’t destroy one tank, but at least three or five,” the soldier explains.