Russian soldiers captured in Sumy Oblast. March 2022. Photo: The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Captured Russian soldiers. Sumy Oblast, Ukraine. March 2022. Photo: General Staff of the Armed Forces 

Opinion, Russia

Volodymyr Zolkin, a Ukrainian interior ministry official who has interviewed non-Russians who fought in the Russian army but are now prisoners of war in Ukraine about their attitudes, reports that few of them think their home republics have any chance to become independent or are prepared to fight for such an outcome.

Zolkin says he doesn’t want to offend anyone but these people have been reduced to the status of “zombie slaves” and refuse to face up to that status or do anything about it ( transcribed and reposted at

Related: “Russian” combat losses in Ukraine appear to be disproportionately non-Russians or ethnic Russians from rural areas

Recently, the Ukrainian official says, he has been asking non-Russian POWs whether they would “like to escape from this slavery.” All of them “admit that Russia is exploiting them terribly, but all say that [Moscow] won’t let us go so easily because we are a rich region” that the center can use for its own benefit.

Related: Inter-ethnic animosity saps effectiveness of Russia’s army in Ukraine

The point here,” Zolkin says, “is not that their regions are rich. The point is that it doesn’t even occur to them that they need to fight for freedom.” Instead, having concluded that Moscow isn’t going to let them go, they see no reason for considering what they might do to hasten the day of their liberation.

Zolkin’s findings throw some cold water on the hopes of some in Ukraine and elsewhere that the non-Russians within the Russian Federation will seek to follow Ukrainians and others to achieve their independence.

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