Russian Federation (RF) authorities are dragooning Ukrainian citizens into uniform to fill gaps in ranks, but the unwilling soldiers often desert or flatly refuse to follow orders to attack, officials and news reports said.

Vladislav Nazarov, spokesman for Ukraine’s southern command, said RF authorities in occupied territories are dragooning Ukrainian citizens into uniform, sometimes at gunpoint, and soldiers in such units will evade combat if they can.

The Kremlin’s sometimes ruthless search for manpower is equally intense in Ukrainian territory controlled by Russia for the last eight years, and in towns and cities newly occupied by RF forces following the main force invasion on 24 Feb.,  Nazarov said.

A video widely-distributed on Ukrainian news platforms on 24 May showed a unit of militia raised in the Donetsk People’s Republic – Ukrainian territory controlled by the Kremlin since 2014 – with soldiers and officers flatly refusing to enter fighting in the neighboring Luhansk region, and declaring they would not follow “illegal orders”. One speaker identified the unit as the 4th battalion of the 107th regiment of the DPR.


“We refuse to go to slaughter. Seventy percent of us, can’t serve because of health. Ninety percent, have held a rifle in their hands for the first time. The unit was raised in the Donetsk region and by DPR law cannot fight elsewhere, the speaker said.

Vitaly Kim, head of the Mykolaiv regional defense administration, in a May 20 statement said that local intelligence services are “seeing people (in RF units) refuse to go and fight all the time…they just don’t want to become cannon fodder.”

In Melitopol, a southern town occupied since the second day of the war, RF authorities and collaborating police have embarked on a city-wide campaign to register all citizens, with the specific goal of identifying military-age men for conscription, said Ivan Federiv, the Melitopol mayor-at-large, in a May statement.


Sometimes, according to locals, people don’t have the option. A former Mariupol resident told Kyiv Post that “volunteering” for military service is the quickest and easiest way for Ukrainians held in an RF-run filtration camp in the Azov seaside village Melekine, to receive money, steady work, and a way out of the detention center.

Olesky, a Mariupol native of military age, said RF officers running the Melekine facility actively recruit Ukrainian men held in detention, sometimes telling them they have the choice of fighting their countrymen at home or being forcibly transported to the Russian Far East, or Arctic regions.

Oleksy gave his last name to the Kyiv Post but requested it not be published to protect his relatives, who are still in the Melekine filtration camp.

Kirill Mihailov, head of the Conflict Intelligence Team think tank, in a May 23 estimate said that within the RF army, among RF nationals, between 20 and 40 percent of contract military personnel are flatly refusing to continue in service, because of dissatisfaction with the RF invasion of Ukraine and high casualties suffered by combat units. Refusal rates are likely even higher in units raised in Ukrainian territories, the estimate said.


On the Telegram channel Mobilization DPR, an information platform strongly supporting the RF’s invasion of Ukraine, poster after poster identifying herself as the wife of a man now serving in DPR forces complained her husband got a raw deal.

“I’ve been to the conscription office time after time, and every time they tell me a single sentence: ‘He has to defend us and his country’. Honestly, it’s just ridiculous,” wrote a woman named Anna.

“I think they (RF authorities) force them (the husbands) to sign contracts. It’s time to tear down the recruiting office of the military unit,” wrote a woman named Elena.

“Are you sure he will come home alive?” asked a poster, possibly pro-Ukrainian, identifying himself as I2.

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