Soldiers refusing to be cannon fodder on the Ukrainian frontline

Russian soldiers are beaten bloody, locked in basements, starved and threatened with execution for refusing to fight

By Chris Pleasance


Daily Mail (12.12.2022)/ HRWF (29.12.2022) – Photo: A basement jail for Russian soldiers refusing to be cannon fodder

  • Russian soldiers are being held in basement jails and beaten for refusing to fight 
  • Relatives say men – including conscripts – are being starved, threatened with lengthy jail terms, and forced to undergo mock executions for downing weapons 
  • One woman says her son disappeared into one basement jail, has not been heard from in five months, and is now listed as ‘missing’ by the army
  • See videos on this issue at the bottom of this article


Vladimir Putin paints them as heroes: Tens of thousands of Russians ready and willing to lay down their lives in his ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine.


But as winter bites and the death toll mounts, more and more stories are emerging of Russian soldiers refusing to fight and suffering horrifying consequences.


Men – including conscripts – are being beaten bloody, thrown in basement jails, starved, threatened with lengthy jail terms or made to suffer through mock executions as a result of downing their weapons, their relatives have said.

At least nine sites potentially holding hundreds of soldiers have been uncovered so far, with those back in Russia saying their relatives have disappeared into them and have not been heard from since.

ASTRA, a Telegram channel run by dissident Russian journalists, first began reporting on the detention camps back in October when it emerged 20 soldiers were being held in appalling conditions in occupied areas of Luhansk.


Men complained in a video smuggled out of detention that they were being held in a single basement, forced to defecate in a single communal bucket, and had to sleep on the floor under a ceiling that leaked on them.

The group – who were conscripted into the army under Putin’s ‘partial mobilisation’ order – said they were sent there after refusing to go to the frontlines.

They were eventually removed from the basement and taken to a command post in the city of Rubizhne where they were held for another 10 days before prosecutors came to threaten them with lengthy jail terms unless they agreed to fight.

When they again refused, they were taken to a former prison near the city of Alchevs’k which is their last known location.

Another site was then uncovered in Zavitne Bazhannya, Donetsk region, where another 20 people are reportedly being held.

‘There is no toilet in the basement, the detainees have not washed for several weeks, they are fed once a day,’ ASTRA reported.

Russian news site Insider also reported on the same basement, and spoke to a woman named Elena Kashina who said her 33-year-old husband – a conscript – is being held there after he refused orders to fight.


She said he was a miner by trade who was conscripted into the Russian military – ostensibly as a vehicle mechanic – but was actually given one day of shooting practice, one day of digging trenches, and was then sent to the front.

Elena said her husband was among a group of men who refused to storm a Ukrainian position, before they were threatened with execution and taken away.

They were sent to a basement detention centre in mid-October, kept for two days without food, ordered back to the front, and then returned to the basement when they refused.

Elena, who spoke to Insider in early November, said at the time of writing that the men had been without food for three days but were still refusing orders.

The BBC spoke to a father whose son was an officer in the regular army when the war in Ukraine broke out, and initially agreed to go and fight – believing it was the right thing to do.


But after seeing Russia’s war machine in action, the man’s son changed his mind and – together with ‘several’ others – he wrote a letter refusing to go into combat.

‘[They] had their guns taken off them and were put under armed guard,’ he said.

A ‘different group’ of Russian soldiers arrived and began threatening them to go back to the front.

‘They beat him and then they took him outside as if they were going to shoot him. They made him lie on the ground and told him to count to ten. He refused.

‘So, they beat him over the head several ties with a pistol. He told me his face was covered in blood.’

Another woman, named only as Oxana, said her son had refused to lead his men on a ‘certain death’ mission and was locked up in one of the basements as a result.

‘They haven’t been seen for five months,’ she told the BBC.

Her son, along with four other men, are now officially listed as ‘missing’ by the Russian military which claims the building where they were being kept was shelled.

ASTRA reports that it has uncovered at least nine sites across Luhansk and Donetsk where Russian troops were being kept.

Most are small, housing only a few dozen in each location, but at least one is said to be considerably larger.

That site, located underneath the House of Culture in the town of Zaitsevo, is said to house up to 300 soldiers.

Ekaterina Belova, whose brother is being held at the site, told local reporters: ‘They are not getting any food. They are not allowed to leave.

‘They are not allowed to wash. They cannot charge the phone. These people have nothing human left, literally.’

Another woman, who spoke anonymously but said her husband in being held in Zaitsevo, added: ‘They are fed once a day: one dry food serving for five to six people. They are constantly threatened.’

Russia is now well into its tenth month of fighting in Ukraine, after what-was supposed to be a days-long invasion to topple the country and allow annexation by August spectacularly backfired.

Putin is thought to have lost well over 100,000 men dead and wounded during that time, with thousands of tanks, hundreds of aircraft, and dozens of naval vessels either damaged or destroyed.

His army has gained some ground in the south and east of the country, but has been fought to a standstill and pushed back in several key areas.

To plug hole in the frontline cause by the extreme losses, Putin has been forced to declare a ‘partial mobilisation’ and call up 300,000 men to fight.

That has proved deeply unpopular in Russia itself, sparking protests and prompting some 700,000 men to flee the country rather than risk being sent to the front.

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