440 Russian Reservists Died in Ukraine After Officers Ran Away, Soldier Says

  • A Russian reservist said his unit was killed in a Ukrainian attack after its officers fled.
  • He said about 570 reservists in his unit were from his city, and only 130 survived.
  • Their wives are pleading with the authorities to rescue the mobilized men, according to the Russian outlet Verstka.

About 440 Russian conscripts sent to fight in Luhansk were killed in Ukrainian bombing after their unit commanders abandoned them, according to various media reports.

Russian reservist Alexei Agafonov told the Guardian that of the 570 conscripts mobilized in his unit, only 130 survived the Ukrainian attack on November 1.

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“I saw men tearing apart in front of me, and most of our unit was gone and destroyed. It was hell,” said Peter Sauer, the Guardian’s Russia correspondent.

Another soldier, who was not named, confirmed Agafonov’s account, saying that “hundreds” of reservists died that day, according to the Guardian. “Two weeks of training do not qualify for that,” he told outlets.

The Russian media Verstka reported that Agafonov and his battalion ordered digging trenches near the town of Makevka in Luhansk, but that they had only three shovels in the battalion. Verstka is an independent news outlet that regularly publishes news that challenges or challenges the Kremlin’s narratives.

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When Ukraine bombed the area with artillery, helicopters and mortars on the morning of November 1, the reservists were “simply fired,” Agafonov told the outlet.

According to Verstka, he said, “When it all started, the officers immediately ran away.”

The men were recruited into the Agafonov unit as part of the mass Russian mobilization of 300,000 reservists, which President Vladimir Putin announced in the hope of strengthening Moscow’s forces in Ukraine. Putin said on October 21 that 33,000 reservists had already joined their combat units and 16,000 of them were already fighting.

Verstka stated that the Agafonov unit included residents from the city of Voronezh. In a video message to the local governor, the wives of the recruits protested the circumstances surrounding their husbands’ deployment, according to the outlet.

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They called on the Russian authorities to rescue the men and get them off the front lines, according to Verstka, who republished the video.

One woman said, “The day they arrived, they were put on the front lines. The leadership left the battlefield and ran away.”

“Our soldiers survived in the best possible way,” she added. “They did not sleep and did not eat, they stood in line for three days and did not flee, unlike their leaders.”

Moscow fights reports of large numbers of reservists falling

Recruits are seen as part of the mobilization as military training continues within the mobilization scope in Rostov, Russia on October 31, 2022.

Recruits are seen as part of the mobilization as military training continues within the mobilization scope in Rostov, Russia on October 31, 2022.

Arkady Budnitsky / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Reports about the Makeevka massacre swelled into a public scandal for Russian officials, according to The Washington Post.

In a separate complaint, on Sunday several pro-Russian military correspondents published an open letter from members of the Russian 155th Infantry Brigade, according to the newspaper. They claimed that 300 soldiers in their unit were killed and half of their equipment was lost in the first four days of their deployment to Donetsk, according to the outlet.

On October 13, Russian pro-war blogger Anastasia Kashivarova complained on her Telegram channel about how Russian reservists were treated. She wrote, “I have this to say, some commanders should be shot. Gentlemen officers, you have absolutely no moral right to wear your rank and shoulders.”

“The zinc coffins are already coming. You told us there would be training, and they wouldn’t be sent to the front in a week. Did you lie again?” Kashivarova Books.

Russia’s Telegram channel “War on Fakes”, which spreads disinformation in favor of the Kremlin and is often relayed by the Russian authorities, claimed on Sunday that reports of heavy casualties among Russian reservists were fake.

Experts in Russia’s armed forces say it’s likely that many Russian reservists are just cannon fodder, with some troops given as little as 10 days of training, according to the New York Times.

Western intelligence now regularly reports that Russian reservists arrive on the front lines with shoddy equipment and Soviet-era weapons. Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on October 31 that some troops had arrived on the battlefield “with rifles barely serviceable”.

Russian media also reported a sharp rise in prices in stores selling military and foreign equipment, noting a stampede among men mobilized to buy basic items that Moscow failed to provide.


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