Double Exposure For Russia's Draftees — Lessons A Year After Mobilization
A year has passed since Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization of military reservists on Sept. 21, 2022. As rumors of a second wave of mobilization continue to circulate on social media, the independent Russian news site Vazhnyye Istorii (Important Stories) and the Conflict Intelligence Team found how the Russian draftees were largely treated as cannon fodder for the Ukraine war.
Exactly a year ago, Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of partial mobilization. As a result, over 300,000 Russians were sent to war. Many of them are still in the combat zone. Some will never return home.
A year of mobilization has taken the lives of thousands of Russian men. Volunteers from the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) and Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories compiled a list of the draftees who perished on the front line to understand how, when, and where they died.
In the entire year that passed since the partial mobilization, Russian authorities have not once published the total number of dead Russian draftees. Still, new obituaries appear daily throughout the country, from Moscow to the easternmost region of Chukotka.
Whether it was a cook from a neurological institution, a rural school teacher, or a tractor driver, they all shared a similar fate — they went from the conscription office to their grave in less than a year.
Perished within first months
Vadim Bulatov, a 23-year-old from the Chelyabinsk region, perished on Oct. 8, just nine days after being mobilized.
"He called me on the fourth, saying they were heading to Kherson.” his brother says. “He died on the front line. There was no training — just BAM … and he was there.”
Nikita Perlin, from the same village, did not last much longer on the front.
"He was the caretaker for his grandfather but said he wouldn't use that as an excuse,” his wife says. “They handed me the notice on his birthday.”
Before the war, Nikita constructed houses, saunas and also built kennels for dog shelters free of charge. He left behind two children.
Every tenth mobilized individual who perished was younger than 25 years old.
On the same day, at least three more mobilized men from the Chelyabinsk region perished. They were sent to the Kherson front with minimal preparation just as Ukraine’s counteroffensive was underway there. A month later, Russia withdrew from Kherson.
Commonly, the victims on the CIT list perished within the first months. At least 130 men died one month after mobilization. One in five of the victims did not make it past the two-month mark. On average, the war claimed their lives after approximately four-and-a-half months.
"Most casualties occurred during the autumn and the spring of 2023," analysts from the CIT say. "Some were thrown into the grinder in the Svatovo and Kreminna areas in the autumn, where the Russian military leadership urgently needed to close the gap caused by a Ukrainian breach."
According to the analysts, only a few of the perished draftees endured on the front for over 11 months. One such individual is 24-year-old Vyacheslav Moiseev from the Perm region who survived until Aug. 25, 2023. He was sent to the frontline at the onset of the mobilization, just three months after the birth of his son.
From 19- to 62-year-olds
The mobilization primarily affected men over the age of 30, and more than half of the dead draftees were between 30 and 45 years old. One of them was Igor Dadanov, a 33-year-old from Buryatia, who lost his life in Ukraine precisely five months after his mobilization, on the same day as his brother. Four children were left orphaned as a result.
Every tenth mobilized individual who perished was younger than 25 years old. Anton Getman from the Rostov region was 19 when he died in Nov. 2022, three months after the start of the mobilization campaign.
The oldest mobilized individual on the CIT list is Nikolay Isakov from the Tver region, who was 62 years old. He spent nearly eight months in the war and passed away in early June on Russian territory, in the Shebekinsky district of the Belgorod region. At that time, the "Freedom of Russia" legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (groups in which Russians fight on the side of Ukraine) reported battles in border areas.
Funeral being held for Stepan Zhigulev, a mobilized Russian soldier
Could have been avoided
On Jan. 1, 2023, when the Ukrainian Armed Forces launched an attack on the Russian camp in Makiivka, the CIT list recorded the deaths of over 139 mobilized soldiers. This is one and a half times more than what the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed, which reported just 89 casualties.
The Russian MoD blamed the mobilized soldiers for the incident, stating they violated a ban by using their mobile phones, which allowed the Ukrainians to locate the base through their signals. This was the deadliest single attack for Russian soldiers.
According to the CIT, this tragedy could have been avoided by "not allowing the personnel to gather in one place, not placing the unit in a populated area, where the locals would immediately report them, and not storing ammunition in the same facility as the soldiers' living quarters."
Heavy losses among mobilized soldiers
Oct. 24, 2022, saw the death of 47 mobilized soldiers. They all served in the 255th regiment and died when their column came under fire in the Nova Kakhovka area of the Kherson region. According to surviving mobilized soldiers, this tragedy could have been avoided as well; the command forced people to cram into overcrowded vehicles, did not coordinate the march with the leadership, and sent the column without cover along a dangerous route.
Many mobilized soldiers suffered heavy losses in the fall and winter on the Kupyansk-Svatovo-Kreminna direction in the Luhansk region, which the Russian military leadership attempted to hold using unprepared and untrained draftees. More than 250 people have died there since the mobilization was announced.
Soldiers complained about commanders using them as cannon fodder.
"They tried to cover whole sections of the front with mobilized soldiers, putting them in several lines, and, of course, they were hit because there was no coordination and no organized system,” an expert from the CIT says. “They were simply thrown in so that at least someone with an automatic weapon sat in the trenches to give the Ukrainian army a fight."
Apart from the 139 killed in Makiivka, another 100 have died in the Donetsk area,
"Significant casualties occurred during the winter-spring Russian offensive when Russia wanted to take Avdiivka by sending in draftees,” the CIT says. “There were many video appeals from mobilized soldiers who complained that the leadership of the Donetsk People's Republic treated them as expendable and openly said, 'You are meat to us.'"
A conscript applies badges to his uniform
Casualties from every Russian region
In the spring and summer of 2023, no fewer than 40 mobilized soldiers died in battles near Bakhmut. They complained about the lack of aviation and artillery support, almost non-existent communication, and commanders using them as cannon fodder.
“At the very beginning, they were told, 'You'll serve for half a year and then go home; no one will send you to the front line.' And they thought, 'We'll quickly go there, get medals, money, and return,'” the CIT says. “Now, many mobilized soldiers complain that they have been serving for 11 months and not yet been sent on leave. Why aren't they sent home? Perhaps the Russian authorities are afraid that if they send, say, 100 people on leave, only half of them would return."
The Russian partial mobilization was also criticized for hitting minorities and poorer, rural regions hardest.
When adjusted by population, most casualties among the draftees were measured in the easternmost region of Chukotka. Second is the Siberian republic of Buryatia, followed by the Tatarstan, Bashkiria and Samara regions.
"In Buryatia, it seems they mobilized more men than they were supposed to," CIT suggests. "Because the level of losses among mobilized soldiers from there is significantly higher than in other regions when considering their population.
“The mobilization can be called a nationwide tragedy," it continues. "Almost every Russian region has buried at least one mobilized soldier."
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