Citing soldiers’ families and human rights organizations, the independent news outlet Firstka Reports said that at least 234 soldiers deployed in different regions of Ukraine are being held in facilities in the town of Priyanka.
This is where the family members of some men say that a special center has been set up to deal with those who choose to withdraw from the war amid deterioration of morale Troop numbers dwindle.
Vasily, the father of a 23-year-old soldier known only as Alexander, is quoted to tell Verstka about the strange chain of events that, according to his account, led to his son’s capture by his army.
He said that Alexander telephoned him on July 8 to announce that he and several other troops had submitted a formal request from the military leadership to get out of the war. At the time, he said, Alexander told him he had been summoned to meet with a Russian general to “discuss” his decision.
Vasily said that the next time Alexander called him, several days later, he said that he was hiding in a basement in Priyanka with other soldiers who tried to withdraw.
As of Wednesday, he was reportedly still in the basement.
Fatima Jurchinina, the mother of another 22-year-old soldier, said her son and others detained with him were trapped in a basement without electricity, food or water.
According to her version, the prison scheme appears to include the powerful Russian Federal Security Service and Wagner Groupa special military force linked to the Kremlin accused of committing war crimes across Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa.
Verstka told that her son Artyom officially announced his desire to withdraw from the war in April, along with at least 81 other soldiers from the same Russian military base in Abkhazia.
After “nothing was done,” Artyom and his fellow soldiers traveled from their whereabouts in the Kherson region of Ukraine to the Crimea, where they turned to the local Federal Security Bureau for help. Finally, the FSB seemed ready to help, according to Gorshenina’s account, he promised Artyom and several other soldiers from the same base that they would be transferred back to Abkhazia so that they could submit their requests to leave to the military command.
The next thing they learned, Gurshinin said, was that their plane landed in Russia’s Rostov region, where the soldiers were split up and flown by helicopter to Bryanka.
They eventually ended up locked in basements, where Artyom reports that they were guarded by members of a special military group who called themselves “Musicians” (a popular nickname for members of the Wagner group).
When they took the men to Priyanka, we called the military base, squadron leaders, and base commanders. I asked him what they were planning to do, why not take the men from there,” Gorshinin was quoted as saying. “I was told that there is a new opposition center. “They are having discussions with them,” she said.
Gurchinina said that despite being told the soldiers would be sent to their base to terminate their contracts if they were not persuaded to continue their service after two weeks, “it didn’t happen.”
Instead, while she was trying to find ways to save her son, she said, an unknown person appeared to be disguising himself in letters with her.
“I wrote to him, as we call him at home, a gnome, What’s your cat’s name?” After that all messages stopped.
As of Thursday, his whereabouts were unknown.
At least 1,793 soldiers have refused to publicly participate in the war so far, according to open source data. Amid reports of Russian commanders threatening troops with prosecution if they choose to abandon the fight, Ukrainian intelligence has reported numerous cases in which Russian forces have taken desperate measures to try to escape, in some cases fleeing directly across the border and in others deliberately injuring themselves.
In one of the ugliest attempts to get out of the war, according to Security service in Ukrainea Russian soldier told his father that he had “made up his mind” by “somehow breaking his leg on the stairs”.
When this did not work, his father advised him on the best way to break his arm.
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