Saturday, November 15, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russian Draftees Refuse Military’s Plans to Send Them to Fight in Ukraine

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 15 – Some 250 Russian draftees at a military base in Rostov oblast have rejected the appeals of their commanders to sign up as contract soldiers, a step that would allow Moscow to send them to fight in southeastern Ukraine, according to Valentina Melnikova of the Union of Soldiers Mothers of Russia.


            Melnikova said that after the soldiers refused to make that change, one of their commanders, a certain Lt.Col. Medinsky “began to threaten them,” saying that he would reassign them anyway and then send them to fight against Ukrainian forces in Luhansk (


            The parents of five of the soldier involved contacted the Union of Soldiers Mothers of Russia, Melnikova added, and her organization in turn sent a letter of complaint to the head of the cadres administration of the Russian Ministry of Defense which is responsible for draftees and other soldiers.


            The activist said that she had received a response from that institution in which Moscow officials declared that “no lieutenant colonels have the right to sign up any contract soldiers” from among draftees. As a result, none of the draftees who refused to accept reassignment as contact soldiers will be sent to Ukraine.


            In recent years and in order to meet draft quotas, the Russian defense ministry has had to promise that no draftee will be sent to “hot spots” unless he agrees to be sent. That appears to be the case here, given that draftees certainly know about that rule and are prepared to invoke it to prevent becoming participants or casualties in a war.


            Melnikova has sometimes been criticized for supposedly overstating the number of Russian dead and wounded in Ukraine, but even if such criticism is well-founded, this report is important for two reasons. On the one hand, it shows that there is not as much enthusiasm in the Russian army for actions in Ukraine as Russian propagandists have suggested.


            And on the other – and this almost certainly is even more significant – it shows that Russian commanders are having to violate their own rules in order to create the kind of strike force that Moscow is assembling, apparently in preparation for a new round of aggression in Ukraine.


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