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Russian soldiers in Ukraine: an investigation

Russian soldiers in Ukraine: an investigation
Article by: Maxim Solopov
Translated by: Kirill Mikhaylov
Top photo: REUTERS 2014[hr]

The Russian newspaper RBC has collected and analyzed data of Russian soldiers killed, wounded or missing in the Ukraine. The majority of them turned out to be from five paratrooper units constituting the Russian peacekeeping corps. The official version that the paratroopers died during exercises in Rostov region, and only volunteer went to Donbas, has proven to be flawed. It also found out that it was during the alleged participation of Russian troops in the conflict that the state media started talking of a volunteer influx to Donbas.

“I lit candles for those who suffered and lost their lives protecting people in Novorossiya,” Vladimir Putin said on September 11 as he exited the church of the Holy Trinity in Moscow. The President didn’t mean Russian servicemen, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained to RBC: “There were no Russian soldiers there”.

So who were the soldiers and officers who came back from the Ukraine alive and dead, how many were there, and why at least three are listed as missing in action?


Paratroopers from Ulyanovsk

On August 28 Egor Vorobyev, journalist of the Ukrainian Espresso-TV channel, published a piece on captured paratroopers from the Russian 31st Separate Airborne Assault Brigade based in Ulyanovsk. On the recording paratroopers Ruslan Akhmetov and Arseniy Ilmitov said that they had arrived for maneuvers to the border Rostov region and ended up in Ukraine the very next day. “We were issued ammo at the border,” Akhmetov says on tape. Only after the first artillery raid, the paratrooper continues, did he realize it was not a drill.

The video was recorded at Mnogopillya near Ilovaisk, a town to the southeast of Donetsk, where Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers from Dnipro-1 and Donbas battalions were surrounded. “We are in an improvised hospital, in a local school, here they are trearing a Russian soldier whose BMD [Boyevaya Mashina Desanta – Airborne Combat Vehicle] has burnt down,” the Ukrainian journalist finished his piece.

Two days later he was taken prisoner himself, the journalist hasn’t come home yet, Vorobyev’s wife Elena Solodovnikova tells RBC.

Apparently neither Ilmitov nor Akhmetov came back from the war. The Ulyanovsk paratroopers’ friends from social network identified them in the Ukrainian recording. The soldiers’ accounts haven’t been updated recently. Ilmitov’s relatives and Akhmetov’s wife refused to talk with RBC.

Anton Gerashenko, deputy Minister of the Internal Affairs of Ukraine, believes the paratroopers died when a Ukrainian convoy got shelled. Gerashenko explained to RBC that he knew that according to an oral account of one of the volunteer battalions. Yuri Bereza, commander of Dnipro-1, confirmed to RBC that his men took Ilmitov and Akhmetov prisoner during fighting at Mnogopillya in late August. “I personally negotiated with their commander, his call sign was “Maple”, Bereza said. According to Bereza, together with the paratroopers on the recording Ukrainian soldiers allegedly captured up to 20 more Russian servicemen in the same region. The Ukrainian officer found out that the detainees were serving in the Russian army only from their oral accounts: they had no papers on them, the data recorded during interrogations was lost in the attempt to break the encirclement.

“I gave an officer’s word that we would give the prisoners back if we were allowed to leave. Each vehicle had a Russian prisoner inside,” Bereza says. However, on August 29 near Novokaterynivka the convoy came under fire. “The vehicle with them [Ilmitov and Akhmetov] inside was shot before my own eyes,” the battalion commander claims.

The unit where the paratroopers served refused to speak with RBC about the participation of their soldiers in the events in the Ukraine (all the other units we mention below did the same)

31st Separate Airborne Assault Brigade is based in Ulyanovsk region. The Ulyanovsk paratroopers participated in restoring constitutional order in Chechnya. Since 2005 the brigade has been fullt staffed with contract soldiers. 

According to various accounts, the 31st SAAB lost at least two more contract soldiers. The Military Comissariat of Bashkortostan confirmed the death of a 28-year old private Inlnur Kilchinbaev from Almyasovo, Kugarchi disctrict, to Bashinform agency. A local TV station aired a short piece on Alexander Belozerov from the township of Novaya Maina in the Melekess district of Ulyanovsk region. Both went to maneuvers in Rostov region in late August, both, according to the information from the relatives, died on August 25.

“Our townsman Ilnur Kilchinbaev died a heroic death defending civilians in the Ukraine,” told a message on the community page of Kugarchi district, now deleted but viewable via cache. “Died in the line of duty,” says a laconic mourning stand in the school where Belozerov used to study.

The Vkontakte [Russian social network similar to Facebook] accounts of both have been deleted, Kilchenbaev’s wife wouldn’t talk to RBC, and we couldn’t locate Belozerov’s relatives.


Paratroopers from Kostroma

“They didn’t get lost, they just used 2015 maps,” Lyudmila Khokhlova, chairman of the Kostroma Council of soldier’s mothers, recalls a joke from the web on the paratroopers of the 331 Guards Airborne Regiment based in Kostroma. On August 25 the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU] published videos of interrogations of paratroopers from Kostroma detained the day before near Dzerkalne, Amvrosiyivka district, Donetsk region. This spot is 36 kilometers to the West of the Russian border and 10 kilometers to the south of Mnogopillya where the Ulyanovsk paratroopers were captured.

In the video nine grim men in camo with no insignia take turns to tell how they ended up in the warzone. The video was intended to back Kiev’s claims of the participation of Russian regulars in the conflict. The soldiers said they’d arrived to Rostov region for battalion tactocan maneuvers, where they’d set up camp near Matveev Kurgan township. Some time later the paratroopers were ordered to accompany a vehicle convoy. They crossed the border on an unmarked stretch and the same day were detained by Ukrainian soldiers.

Russia claims the paratroopers got lost during maneuvers and accidentally entered Ukraine. On August 31 – after talks of the Presidents in Ukraine and Russia in Minsk – the soldiers were transferred to Russia.

The nine detainees, upon spending some time in Rostov and them in the military hospital named after Burdenko in Moscow, have already returned to Kostroma. One, seriously wounded, stays at a burn treatment center in St. Petersburg [The SBU video did not feature the wounded one], relatives of former captives say. Now the released soldiers are on vacation, they may resume their contract service if they want to do so, the 98th Division’s Deputy Commander for Morale & Welfare colonel Alexander Khotulev told RBC. Khotulev refused to comment whether his unit had suffered losses. However, relatives of the paratroopers say it was Khotulev who on August 26 told the families there were two dead and ten wounded in the division.

The 98th Guards Airborne Division is based in Ivanovo and Kostroma regions. The 331 Kostroma regiment, part of the division, took part in settlmenet of ethnic conflicts in Transcaucasia, Transdniestria, Yugoslavia, North Ossetia. In 2008 the Kostroma paratroopers took part in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.

The first known killed contract soldier from this unit is Sergey Seleznev, buried on September 2 in Vladimir. A representative of the military commissariat told a local paper Pro Gorod that the soldier died during maneuvers in Rostov region. The circumstances of the death of another paratrooper, Andrei Pilipchuk from Kostroma region, remained unknown. Andrei’s friends and relatives told about his death on social neywork pages, but later deleted all the information. Kirill Rubankov, editor of Glavniy Portal Kostromy, claims that Pilipchuk’s relative confirmed the paratrooper’s burial in private. She refused to talk with RBC.

Photo: Oleg Yakovlev/RBC

The management of the Kostroma graveyard told RBC of three soldiers from Kostroma killed “in the Ukraine” and buried there. The “Afghan alley”, where tradionally those killed in military conflicts are buried, saw three fresh graves. According to the plaques, the 26-year old Sergey Gerasimov, the 32-year old Alexey Kasyanov and the 27-year old Evegeniy Kamenev died on August 24, 25 and September 3.

Солдатские могилы в Костроме
Photo: Ekaterina Kuzmina/RBC

The wife of one of Gerasimov’s colleagues told RBC that the young man was doing contract service in the recon platoon of the 331st Regiment. She herself is still waiting for her husband to return from Rostov region. “They say: “Yes, we were in Ukraine,” another source of RBC claims, asking not to disclose her name. According to her, her husband returned from Ukraine to Rostov region in early September. “Just yesterday [September 3] they were allowed to call. The guys don’t want to stay there”.

Солдатские могилы в Костроме
Photo: Ekaterina Kuzmina/RBC

Khotulev declined to tell RBC how many paratroopers from Kostroma in total went to the maneuvers in Rostov. The relatives of the soldiers claim that at least a battalion was sent to Rostov region [a standard airborne battalion numbers 400-500 soldiers].

Солдатские могилы в Костроме
Photo: Ekaterina Kuzmina/RBC

“I believe the maneuvers will end soon… As soon as the political situation gets better,” Khotulev told RBC, while declining to comment on the participation of Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian conflict. “The mothers and relatives have calmed down. Everything is going back to normal,” the colonel concluded.


Pskov, Ryazan and Novorossiysk paratroopers

The first account of possible participation of Pskov paratroopers in the fighting in Ukraina was a message of Ukrainian media on August 20: Near Georgievka, Luhansk region, the Ukrainian army captured a BMD-2 fighting vehicle with papers and weapons of soldiers of the 76th Guards Airborne Brigade based near Pskov. Inter’s reporter Roman Bochkala published photos confirming it on his Facebook page. Among the things found in the BMD were a passport and driver’s license of Nikolay Krygin from Pskov region and Ilya Maksimov from Saratov region, as well as a evening roll call journal with a long list of paratroopers. Both the Russians were doing contract service in the Pskov division, their friends told RBC.

Igor Konashenkiv, the Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman, brushed it off as a joke: “To many SBU’s “heroic deeds” you can now add another – “receiveing stolen goods”.

But on August 25 Leonid Kichatkin and Alexander Osipov, paratroopers mentioned in the journal, were burried in Pskov. The dates of death on the plaques of grave crosses: August 19 and 20.

Photo: Ilya Vasyunin for Russkaya Planeta

Thanks to investigation of a local councilman Lev Schlossberg and journalists of Pskovskaya Guberniya newspaper who first told about the burials, 76th division’s losses became known all over Russia. Maksimov’s mother even gave a press-conference where she said she couldn’t get the military to tell her where her son was. Later Maksimova told RBC he did turn up in Pskov, but he’d never explained how his papers ended up in a burnt fighting vehiclle in Ukraine.

76th Guards Airborne Assault Division is based in Pskov region. Pskov paratroopers took part in the settlement of ethnic conflicts in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, the Baltics, Transdniestria, North and South Ossetia. In 1994 and 1995 the division took part in the armed conflict in the Chechen republic. In 2008 the divison’s soldiers took part in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. In August Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu thanked the guardsmen for taking part in the 2014 Crimea operation.

Journalists and social network users found dozens of Vkontakte profiles belonging to Pskov paratroopers who hadn’t logged in since August 15-16. Local media in Voronezh, Orenburg and Komi, reported deaths of Anton Korolenko, Dmitry Ganina and Maxim Mezentsev [all from the Pskov division], citing military commissariats and relatives. The military commissars did not know of the circumstances of their deaths.

Schlossberg told RBC that usually relatives of the deceased refused to share information even anonymously. He believes that as they have no hope of getting their loved ones back, they are easily susceptible to pressure from military officials in exchange for pensions.

By Schlossberg’s estimate, over 2000 soldiers of the 76th Division were transferred to the Ukrainian border.

Apart from Pskov, Kostroma and Ulyanovsk paratroopers, at least two paratroopers from other units died under unknown circumstances at the time of fighting in eastern Ukraine., citing the local military commissariat, told of the death of Nikolay Sharaborin from Chita, who served in a paratrooper unit in Novosibirsk, during maneuvers near Rostov. In this city the 7th Guards Airborne Assault Division is based. Later the Chita office of state news company VGTRK called Sharaborin a volunteer who’d joined the rebels, changing the place of his death to Donetsk region.

7th Guards Airborne Assault (mountain) division is based in Krasnodar region, in the cities of Novorossiysk, Stavropol, and Anapa. The unit’s servicemen executed peacekeeping tasks in Abkhazia and actively participated in counter-terrorist operations in North Caucasus.

Anatoliy Salin, expert from the Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee, told of the death of the 21-year old Ildar from Astrakhan, a soldier of the 137th Guards Regiment of the 106th Guards Airborne Division based in Ryazan region. The human rights activist did not tell the soldier’s surname, stating July 28th as the date of death. Not long before the soldier, according to his mother, was transferred to Novoshakhtinsk, Rostov region. tells the soldier’s surname – Maksutov. Journalists found the paratroopers Vkontakte page with a status “To the Ukraine!”. Salin tells that the soldiers mother who contacted the human rights watchdogs herself, at some point stopped communicating with them.

106th Guards Airborne Division is based in Ryazan region. The division’s men took part in restoring peace during anti-Armenian riots in Azerbaijan and counter-terrorist operations in North Caucasus. 



Motorized infantry

On August 27 SBU announced the detention of another Russian soldier – a 19-year old Peter Khokhlov. The agency posted a video, where the man from Novouzensk, Saratov region, says he is a private from the 9th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade based in Nizhny Novgorod. Roman Shubtsov who’d served the draft term with Khokhlov, identified him and confirmed his words to RBC. According to him, Khokhlov was raised in a foster home, his parents having died.

The soldier on the record says he was drafted on May 22 2013 and in 9 months signed a contract on service in the 9th brigade. Another two months later his battalion was alarmed, loaded into troop trains and sent to Rostov region. There the unit set up camp in a forest. A month later the commander ordered to drive out the BMPs [Infantry Fighting Vehicles], line them up into a convoy and remove number plates and other insignia, the soldier told. Later, Khokhlov claims, 14 of those vehicles were transferred to certain “Chechens” in the Russian border town of Donetsk.

Acording to Khokhlov, he allegedly found out about the rewards the rebels were getting and decided to go AWOL and join them. On August 8 Khokhlov and his comrade-in-arms Ruslan Garafiev went AWOL and ended up in Luhansk region. There on August 27 he was captured by the Ukrainians near Novosvitlivka.

Now Sergey, Khokhlov’s brother who grew up together with him at the foster home, and the soldiers fiance Anna from Nizhny Novgorod are trying to find out his fate. “The military commissariat told us: he left his unit. I don’t believe what he says on camera. He was at maneuvers in Rostov. If he’d decided to leave for somewhere, he’d call me,” Sergey Khokhlov told RBC. We couldn’t find Ruslan Garafiev’s relatives. SBU declined to comment on the fate of Russian soldiers.

However, the version that the soldier from the 9th brigade ended up in Ukraine at his own will, has drawbacks. Komsomolskaya Pravda published stories of two other contract soldiers of the same 9th brigade Armen Davoyan and Alexander Voronov who died “on the border with the Ukraine” in Rostov region. Their comrades-in-arms allegedly told the paper that the young men were killed on July 14 when they got shelled while protecting civilians. Later the article was deleted from the newspaper’s website.

The brigade’s representative whose phone Sergey Khokhlov got in the military commissariat, hung up as soon as the RBC journalist introduced himself. Davoyan’s and Voronov’s relatives couldn’t be contacted.

Evidently, the “maneuvers in Rostov region” involved motorized infantry from other units.

21st Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade is based in Totsk district, Orenburg region. Soldiers from the Totsk brigade took part in peacekeeping operations in Transdniestria and Abkhazia as well as both Chechen campaigns. 

In late August local media in Irkutsk, Astrakhan and Bashkortostan told about burials of Vadim Larionov, Konstantin Kuzmin and Marsel Araptanov from the 17th and 18th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigades based in Chechnya, citing military commissariats and relatives. All the three, according to official versions, died “on duty” during maneuvers near Rostov. Local media in Perm, citing the relatives who got an announcement to that effect, told of the death of Vasily Karavaev of the 21st Separate Motorized Brigade, located in Totsk district of Orenburg region, on maneuvers in Rostov region. Elena Vasilyeva, the creator of a facebook group “Cargo 200” [miltary slang for “bodies”, dedicated to Russian soldiers killed during the conflict in Ukraine], published a copy of an order to remove from all kinds of allowance, starting on September 4, 6 more soldiers of that unit: A 25-year old junior sergeant Viktor Karpukhin, a 27-year old private Nikita Surkov, a 29-year old sergeant major Vitaliy Glusheno, a 35-year old warrant officer Alexander Nikulin, a 37-year old senior warrant officer Nikolay Mylnikov and a 35-year old senior warrant officer Sergey Dymov. Vasilyeva claims all of them could have died as well.

This information couldn’t be either refuted or confirmed as of the date of publication of this material.


Samara peacekeepers

The maneuvers in Rostov region we also attended by soldiers of the 15th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of peacekeeping forces located in the Roshinskiy township of Samara region, Viktor Kalinichev, head of the Samara Union of Paratroper an Special Forces Veterans, told RBC. Two relatives of the soldiers told RBC on the grounds of anonymity that the soldiers contacted them on September 3 after a long break.

The mother-in-law of one contract soldier and the brother of another claim, citing the soldiers, that they were in the Ukraine in late August. On September 2 they allegedly returned through Krasnodon back to Rostov region and started preparing to a possible new trip to the Ukraine.

The wife of another contract soldier from the Samara brigade told RBC that her husband who hadn’t contacted her for a long time, called her in late August from a Ukrainian number. The man told her he was on maneuvers in Rostov region. The phone with a Ukrainian SIM the soldier used to call her he allegedly borrowed from one of the refugees.

There is no information of possible losses within the brigade. The unit’s representatives refused to talk to RBC. “There were exercises in Rostov region, but there are no our soldiers in the Ukraine. This is what the Commander-in-Chief told,” Kalinichev denied flatly.

15th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the peacekeeping forces is based in Chernorechye, Samara region. This is the first dedicated peacekeeping unit in Russia, created in late 2004. It is staffed with contract soldiers


The forces of peace

“The world has changed, and changed radically. As you know from previous examples, peacekeeping forces may be required unexpectedly,” said the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu when he visited the 15th peacekeeper brigade on August 6. Back then, not everyone in the Samara unit could suggest what exactly the minister was talking about.

All the military units, the soldiers in which were killed during maneuvers in Rostov region or captured in Ukraine, except the motorized brigades, form the bulk of Russia’s peacekeeping forces. The aforementioned airborne units were designated as such in August by deputy Airborne Forces commander for peacekeeping operations, major general Alexander Vyaznikov. According to him, it was August 2014 when the forming of peacekeeping forces, numbering 5 thousand soldiers was completed,

The issue of creating dedicated peacekeeping forces arose five years ago after the operation in Ossetia, recalls the head of the Military Forecasting Center Anatoliy Tsyganyuk. According to him, the peacekeepers differ from other fast response forces by language training (all of them learn English and other foreign languages), skills of operations during unrest and riots, skills of interaction with police and security forces of other countries, as well as readiness for not purely military but also humanitarian operations. Today the peacekeeper status has been granted to only one land forces brigade and the aforementioned paratrooper units; however, there are peacekeeping units in the Internal Forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia.

In spring the Kostroma, Pskov and Ulyanovsk paratroopers together with soldiers from other units took part in the operation to annex Crimea. Shoigu presented the 76th Division with Suvorov’s order awarded by a presidential decree of August 18 and personally thanked the soldiers for participation in the Crimea operation. The “medal for returning Crimea” was awarded to the killed contract soldier Kilchinbaev and a Kostroma paratrooper Egor Pochtoev detained near Donetsk. Photos of such medals can be found on many personal pages in social networks belonging to soldiers of those units.


The war

By early August Donetsk and Luhansk were almost completely blockaded; the territory of the self-proclaimed DNR and LNR shrank by three quarters since the start of the fighting. Alexander Bolotov and Alexander Borodai, by then the most prominent leaders of DNR and LNR, had resigned. On August 14 Igor Strelkov, the man at the roots of armed resistance to Kiev, left the post of the DNR Minister of Defense. Russian national-patriotic websites began using the phrase “Moscow is dumping Novorossiya”.

On August 16, when the fighting was raging in the suburbs of Donetsk and Luhansk, the new DNR prime-minister Alexander Zaharchenko suddenly told of reinforcements: 150 vehicles [around 30 tanks, the rest IFVs and APCs] and “1200 men who’d been training for four month in Russian territory”. “They were let in at the most crucial monent,” Zakharchenko said during a speech at a session of the DNR Supreme Council. “Few in the republic’s leadership knew that in the nearest days serious changes would happen and the enemy would be decisively beaten,” Igor Strelkov later told RBC upon returning to Moscow.

As a result, on August 19 the Ukrainian army’s assault ground to a halt, and on August 20 the rebels started a counteroffensive. Russian state media reverted to victorious rhetoric of the Great Patriotic War [WWII]: they talked of Ilovaisk and Mariupol “pockets” the Ukrainian army got into. Indead, by August 27 several thousand Ukrainian soldiers were encircled in the area between Ilovaisk, Amvrosievka and Staobeshevo. Another fresh grouping, armed with armoured vehicles, advance against the Ukrainians to the east of Mariupol.

On August 28 the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for the first time publicly claimed Russian troops had invaded the Ukraine. Several hours later Putin in his address to the rebels recognized “significant success in stopping Kiev’s military operation” and urged to “open a humanitarian corridor for the surrounded Ukrainian soldiers.

An infographic by RBC, showing the extent of rebel-controlled territory on August 20-21 (lighter hue) and September 2-3 (darker hue). The white boxes represent places where Russian servicemen or their papers were seized.

The rebels’ counteroffensive would fail without support of Battalion tactical groups (BTGs) formed from regular Russian army units, Ukrainian military journalist Konstantin Mashovets believes. Currently BTG action is the basis of military tactics of Russian Airborne Forces, according to Russian expert Analoliy Tsyganyuk. BTGs emerged about 10 years ago, before the South Ossetia operation, where they worked perfectly, he says. Such a group is formed on the basis of a regiment or battalion, in rarer cases a division or brigade; such a group usually numbers as match as the staff numbers of a motorized rifle battalion [450-500 soldiers]. Such a unit gets artillery, armored vehicles as well as soldiers and officers of various professions: recon specialists, sappers, communications specialists, spotters, etc. Reinforcing paratrooper BTGs with motorized infantry and tanksmen is an ordinary practice, military expert Alexander Khramchikhin adds.

The commander-in-chief of NATO united forces Philip Breedlove estimated the maximum Russian army forces involved in the operations in the area as up to 10 BTGs. The journalist Mashovets and a Ukrainian battalion commander Bereza believe there were no less than 3-4 BTGs. The latter figure approximately corrsponds to the scale of reinforcements Zakharchenko announced on the eve of the decisive counteroffensive.

The Russian Ministry of Defense denies Breedlove’s claim with some peculiar humor: “Four battalions of soldiers with vehicles aren’t a needle in a haystack. Not speaking of 10 BTGs that allegedly were there a week earlier. For a multi-star general such bold claims based solely on own “beliefs” are irresponsible to say the least,” the Ministry of Defense’s press-release says.

However, RBC’s request to explain the circumstances of the death of over ten soldiers from different units during maneuvers in Rostov region as well as the fate of Ilmitov, Akhmetov and Khokhlov, was left unanswered by the Ministry of Defense.


Vacation not on the beaches

The Ministry of Defense explained most of the facts of its soldiers being in Ukraine by them being volunteers going to war during vacation. DNR and LNR towed the same line. “They preferred to spend their vacations not on seaside beaches but among us,” Zakharchenko said on August 28 in an interview to Russian TV channels.

As soon as world media started reporting Russian soldiers being killed in Ukraine, the Russian state media started developing the topic of soldiers in vacation fighting in Donbas, according to a research by Medialogiya company, performed on request of RBC. According to their media monotoring and analysis system, in September and August three main national channels aired 36 pieces mentioning soldiers from Russia fighting as volunteers, 34 of which were aired after August 25.

On September 4 Channel One showed the burial of a Kostroma paratrooper Anatoliy Travkin killed in Ukraine. “A month ago he went to Donbas without telling his relatives. The unit’s command emphasizes: to get to the warzone, Anatoliy took a vacation”, Channel One anchor says.

However, this piece provokes more questions than it gives answers. According to it, one unit – 331st Airborne Regiment from Kostroma – saw a “volunteer” killed in Ukraine, soldiers dying on “maneuvers in Rostov region”, and contract soldiers accidentally getting lost in Ukraine, all of the latter without insignia and one wounded.

This is the only part where the command can’t say the soldiers were volunteers: the interrogation video of the servicemen refutes that. Colonel Khotulev from the Kostroma unit refused to explain to RBC why one of the lost paratroopers was wounded. The reasons of deaths of other soldiers on manuevers are being investigated in the Southern military district, the officer said. The press-officer of the district did not reply ti RBC.

Moreover, the contract explicitly forbids the soldiers to take part in military actions on vacation, notes the member of the Human Righst Council, director of the human righst group “Citizen. Army. Rights” Sergey Krivenko. “A soldier tells the command where exactly he is going to spend his holiday, and going to a warzone in a foreign country is illegal”, the human rights activist explains. According to him, a paratrooper going to Donbas would have to cheat his command and wouldn’t be eligible for social guarantees and payments in case of injury or death, as well as posthumous military respects.

However, many relatives of those who were killed or came back, when asked by RBC, told of promises of wound or posthumous payments.

On September 2 at a meeting with human righst activists Deputy Minister of Defense Nikolay Pankov promised to investiagate separately each case of soldier death at the “Rostov maneuvers”. Krivenko gave the general a list of those kiiled, which, according to him, contained about fifteen surnames. He’s got no answer as of yet.


According to the NATO general Breedlove, in September after the ceasefire was signed 4 Russian battalion tactical groups remained in Ukraine. This is up to 1,500 fighters. The Russian Ministry o Defense called this information “wild guesses”.

Translated by: Kirill Mikhaylov
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