About the Russian Army - Articles from the Media.

This is an interview with the mother of a Russian soldier who surrendered in Ukraine. It was published in Novaya Gazeta, probably the only non-pro-government media left in Russia. (The websites of almost all other independent media are closed, but they continue to work in telegram channels): https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2022/03/18/stolko-materei-seichas-moliatsia-chto-bog-ne-spravliaetsia

Here is another interview with the mother of a soldier in the same newspaper: https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2022/03/15/mama-ia-khochu-vernutsia-domoi-zhivym

These are unique interviews in the Russian media. The situation is not unique, but the relatives of such soldiers are afraid to speak publicly about them.

Radio Freedom (Svoboda) (blocked in Russia):


Conscripts and contract soldiers in the Russian army

In the Russian army there are both conscripts and contract soldiers.

Conscripts are those who were drafted into the army for a year. They are not professional soldiers.

Сontract soldier is a soldier who has signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense and he receives a salary for his service (not less than 2 years).

At the beginning of the military operation, the Russian authorities claimed that only contract servicemen were participating in it. On March 9 the Ministry of Defense reported that all the conscripts were withdrawn from the territory of Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense said it was taking all actions to return the captured conscripts. “Unfortunately, several facts of the presence of conscripts in the units of the Russian Armed Forces participating in a special military operation on the territory of Ukraine have been discovered", Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on March 9.



Who becomes a contract soldier and how does it happen?

  1. Theoretically, people can enter the contract military service after conscript service. But this is not the most common case.

People from depressed regions of the country, where there is no work for them, often enter into a contract, hoping that this will at least be their income.

  1. University students can be trained in military centers, military training camps and receive the rank of reserve officer. Some students attend this way not to become a conscript.

Not all university students can and want to study in such military centers and become officers.

This means that with the end of their studies, their deferment from conscription ends. They are subject to conscription after graduation.

University graduates can sign a contract for military service instead of conscription.

Some men are attracted by the fact that they are promised that they will be able to live at home, and not in the barracks, that they will receive a salary for their service, and in general they are promised a lot.

But in practice, people often find themselves in the position of nearly the same as conscripts, but also for a longer period. Conscription period is a year and a contract period is not less than 2 years. Then the contract can be renewed.

  1. But most often the contract is signed by military conscripts who have already served for several months.

Relatives inform human rights activists about cases when conscripts were forced to sign a contract. Sometimes they were deceived, claiming that the contract would only be valid for two months (so much was left for the conscript until the end of his term of service).

Some reported that their relative was a conscript, he himself did not sign the contract, just like his colleagues. But then it turned out that they were on the lists as contractors. So the documents were falsified.

Personal documents

Soldiers' personal documents are a special issue. Very often, relatives of soldiers report that they do not have in their hands any documents that a soldier should have: neither a military ID, nor a passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation.

Phones in the army

In accordance with the Russian law, a serviceman is prohibited from using smartphones on the territory of a military unit and training ground, and can only use phones without access to the internet. The law also provides that the commander of a military unit may set the regime for the use of telephones. The vast majority of relatives say that the phones were collected from the soldiers. They are not allowed to use their phones. Sometimes the commander allows them to call relatives from his own (commander’s) phone. Sometimes soldiers hide the phone and call from it when the commander does not see.


Stories from the appeals of relatives:

  1. A young man - a contract serviceman served in a military band as a musician. One day he was informed that he was going to the exercises. He was sent to the border with Ukraine. When they arrived, they were lined up and told that these were not exercises, but that they were participating in a military special operation. Now his family is trying to get him back.
  2. There were appeals from contract servicemen who are on the border with Ukraine. Realizing that a war is already going on, they filed a report to terminate the contract, because, according to their conscience, they cannot participate in this.
  3. A serviceman was sent to Ukraine. His sister lives in Europe and their mom lives in the north of Russia. He served in the east of Russia - in Khabarovsk. They were told they were on their way to training. All of them from the unit were sent west by train. On the train, conscripts were forced to sign a contract. Not conscripts, but contract soldiers arrived on the territory of Ukraine. From Ukraine, he called his mother several times from someone else's phone. He confirmed that he was on the territory of Ukraine. His sister is afraid that his mother will not be able to send the necessary applications and explain to him how to act. The situation is aggravated by the fact that this family has relatives - a cousin lives in Ukraine. At the same time, now his cousin's family remains at home, and the brother himself is working in Russia (on a rotational basis). That is, in fact, in this war, brothers literally stand on different front lines.
  4. The soldier got lost from his unit. He didn't know where to go. A local resident picked him up, gave him food, sheltered him in her house. This woman called the mother of a soldier from her phone. They talked. This soldier does not have any documents in his hands. His status is not clear. He wants to return home.

Human rights activists’ advice to relatives

Human rights activists give recommendations to relatives on how to return a serviceman to Russia, as well as how to prevent sending him to participate in a military operation in Ukraine, if he is still in Russia.

The serviceman sends a report to the commander that he asks to terminate the contract with him and dismiss him. The chance of early termination of the contract in terms of legislation is very high, but so far such cases are not known.

If they do not want to terminate the contract in the military unit, then the military personnel can "scare" the commander by the fact that relatives will make such cases public, both in Russian telegram channels and in foreign media, due to the fact that participation in a special operation on the territory of Ukraine is contrary to his convictions and conscience.

The commander will ignore this report. But at the same time, relatives should send appeals to the Ministry of Defense and other authorities that their relative is a soldier and that they know that he said that he could not continue to serve for reasons of conscience. Relatives should ask the Ministry of Defense to terminate the contract with him and fire him.

The commander will put pressure on the soldier. The family should prepare the service member to resist this pressure. Nothing could be worse than sending to war. Unfortunately, few parents and military personnel dare to act on the advice.

Why many human rights activists working in the field of protecting the rights of military personnel are afraid to give interviews to foreign journalists?

In the fall of 2021, the FSB published an order - a list of information that is not itself classified as secret. But if this information is used by foreign countries or citizens against the interests of Russia, then the person who collected, distributed and transmitted such information will be held criminally liable. This will be considered as treason.

Such information includes:

- the state of the moral and psychological state of servicemen in military units

- material support in military units

- the state of health of military personnel

- information about violation of the law

Phones of human rights defenders are tapped by FSB officers.

Therefore, human rights activists are afraid to give interviews to foreign journalists.

The information here was received either from relatives of military personnel, or from other human rights activists, whose names are not revealed for their safety.

More info:


- By Alexia Tsouni, EBCO President.