Some Russian troops are refusing to return to fight in Ukraine because of their experiences on the front line at the start of the invasion, according to Russian human rights lawyers and activists. The BBC has been speaking to one such soldier.
“I don’t want to go [back to Ukraine] to kill and be killed,” says Sergey – not his real name – who spent five weeks fighting in Ukraine earlier this year.
He is now home in Russia, having taken legal advice to avoid being sent back to the front line. Sergey is just one of hundreds of Russian soldiers understood to have been seeking such advice.
Sergey says he is traumatised by his experience in Ukraine.
“I had thought that we were the Russian army, the most super-duper in the world,” says the young man bitterly. Instead they were expected to operate without even basic equipment, such as night vision devices, he says.
“We were like blind kittens. I’m shocked by our army. It wouldn’t cost much to equip us. Why wasn’t it done?”
Sergey joined the army as a conscript – most Russian men between the ages of 18-27 must complete one year of compulsory military service. But, after a few months, he made the decision to sign a two-year professional contract which would also give him a salary.
In January, Sergey was sent near the border with Ukraine for what he was told would be military drills. A month later – 24 February, the day Russia launched its invasion – he was told to cross the border. Almost immediately his unit found itself under attack.
As they stopped for the evening in an abandoned farm, their commander said: “Well, as you will have worked out by now, this is not a joke.”
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