Russian President Vladimir Putin has emphasized that, whatever else happens, he won’t let Russian conscripts go into the Ukraine meat grinder.
Russia has mandatory one year of military service for men. On Wednesday, the country’s military suggested that it might have made a bit of a mistake: to the surprise of top Russian brass, it turns out that “the presence of conscript soldiers have been uncovered in units of the Russian armed forces, participating in the special operation in Ukraine.”
The supposed discover came, the military said, after Ukrainian forces attacked a supply column with conscripts.
“A group of soldiers, including conscripts, has been taken captive,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement.
The use of conscripts has the potential to be particularly sensitive for Putin, in part because service is mandatory. Reports have consistently suggested that some conscripts are forced to sign contracts to extend their service.
“Yesterday, conscripts were removed from the zone of military activities — they had been forced to sign contracts, or had their signatures signed for them,” Russian senator Lyudmila Narusova said last week. “Only four people were left alive out of a company of 100.”
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said in the Wednesday statement that it intends to remove all conscripts from Ukraine.
A number of reports from Russian military funerals suggest that there have been soldiers who died in Ukraine that initially began as conscripts, but subsequently signed a contract before the invasion.
Aleksandr Ivanov of Yakutia reportedly was conscripted before “transitioning to contract service,” the region’s governor said. Ivanov was killed in action.
“Aleksandr was only 22, he dedicated his life to selfless service of the motherland and remained faithful to his military oath until his last day,” the governor said.