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Russia: Putin’s army begins to seethe

Only recently there had already been a sensational incident in a training center not far from the metropolis of Kazan. As several online media critical of the government reported, recruits there complained about rusty rifles, insufficient food and a lack of firewood to heat the stoves in the tents. A colonel who confronted the soldiers was booed and insulted by them before he finally made his way to safety. Recruits captured the scene on video, which first appeared on the Telegram messenger service.

In the big city of Ulyanovsk there was even a strike by recruits. Private footage taken on November 1 shows dozens of angry men talking to a woman in military uniform. So far, none of them have received the promised one-time payment for recruits of the equivalent of 3,200 euros. “Let the fat bellies of United Russia go to war,” says a man in the video, which was first distributed by an organization that actually campaigns for the rights of prisoners. The next day, relatives reported that the soldiers refused to participate in target practice. To calm things down, the protesting recruits were sent home, at least for a few days.

State propaganda tries to give the impression that such problems are gradually being solved. There are also numerous, quite genuine-looking videos of Russian recruits from training camps, who explicitly praise the course of the preparations. However, experts believe that these are systematic problems.

“The approach to training that we are seeing in Russia is not, in principle, suitable for preparing even soldiers with previous combat experience for war, let alone men with no connection to the army,” criticizes Russian military expert and publicist Pavel lucin. Not only are the recruits poorly cared for, but they often spend less than two weeks in training centers before going to the front.

Families want to bring men back from the front

That affects their families too. At the beginning of November, the Russian Natalia Skvortsova from Tula uploaded an alarming video appeal to Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on her profile on the Russian social network VK. It shows 13 women, including herself. They report on how their men “were sent to the front without preparation and without weapons against tanks, drones and planes”. After only eleven days in the training center, they are said to have been directly involved in fighting. Their demand: an immediate withdrawal of the men. Another woman from this group, who gives only her first name, Taissia, complains that the “generals in charge” threatened to shoot the men if they refused to go straight to the front.

At the end of last week, two other groups of mothers and wives from the cities of Kursk and Voronezh, who had gone to the Russian city of Valuyki on the Ukrainian border in search of their mobilized sons and husbands, reported similar conditions. Their men were also sent to the front near Swatowo without training or equipment. In the border town of Walujki, the women had hoped to meet the relevant commanders responsible for deploying the mobilized directly on the front line. When the plan failed, they threatened in a desperate video message that they would go to the front themselves to get their relatives out of danger.

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