Russian separatist troops mutiny against Putin on video: Commander complains his men have been thrown into bloody fighting without food, equipment or medicine and despite suffering ‘chronic illness’

  • Soldiers conscripted to fight for Russia in Ukraine have complained of conditions
  • Troops from 113th rifle regiment of Donetsk People’s Republic said they have been fighting on the frontlines without proper equipment or medical care
  • Men with chronic conditions have been sent into the midst of the fight, he says
  • Soldiers say they are stationed near Kherson, where Ukraine is attacking

Conscripted troops sent to fight for Russia in Ukraine have mutinied on camera, saying they have been sent to the frontlines without equipment, medicine or food. 

In footage posted on Telegram, the soldiers – who claimed to be from the 113th rifle regiment of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic – say they have been fighting for months in ‘hunger and cold’ without proper kit or medical care.

Their commander says men with chronic medical conditions, who should have escaped the draft, have instead been sent into the midst of the fighting alongside carers and those with young children.

‘The higher command interpret our complaints as sabotage,’ he says. ‘But what is there to be gained from sending your soldiers to die?’ 

The video emerged amid bitter and bloody fighting between Ukraine and Russia in Donbas, of which Donetsk is a part, though the unit in the video is thought to have been stationed near Kherson – an occupied city hundreds of miles to the south west.

A company commander from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic army has complained that his men are being sent to the frontlines without food, kit or medicine

He says men with chronic medical conditions have been sent into the thick of the fighting and that any complaints are treated as ‘sabotage’

In the footage, the commander can be heard saying: ‘Our company, consisting of the 5th Infantry Battalion of the 113th Infantry Regiment, was on the frontlines in the Kherson region of Ukraine.

‘For that time the personnel overcame cold and hunger and for a considerable period we did so without material support, medical supplies or food.

‘The mobilisation of our unit took place without any medical examinations, and there are those among our unit who in accordance with the laws of the Donetsk People’s Republic should not be mobilised. 

‘There are members of our personnel who suffer from chronic diseases and others who are guardians of people with mental illnesses.’

‘For those who are fathers to children and taking into account the duration of our continues presence on the frontlines, many questions arise that are ignored by command.’

He then speaks separately to troops who voice their concerns, but say they are being ignored by their commanders.

‘The higher command interpret our complaints as sabotage,’ he says. ‘Show respect for your officers. What is there to be gained from sending your soldiers to die?’ 

Kherson – a strategically important city which spans the Dnieper River close to where it joins the Black Sea – has been occupied by Russia since the early days of the war.

However, the region has been hotly contested with heavy Ukrainian shelling in areas to the west and now counter-attacks out of the nearby city of Mykolaiv.

Kherson has also been the scene of attacks by pro-Ukraine saboteurs operating partisan-style behind enemy lines.

Valery Kuleshov, a pro-Russian blogger, was shot dead in the area last month in his car after a reward of £15,000 was offered for the head of pro-Moscow officials.

Threats have been posted on social media, telephone poles, trees and walls.

‘Russian occupiers and everyone who supports them. We are close, already operating in Kherson. Death awaits you all!’ warned posters that appeared on the day of Kuleshov’s execution.

Ukraine’s flag also keeps appearing on buildings, along with the national colours of blue and yellow.

‘This is a local partisan resistance,’ said Serhiy Khlan, adviser to the head of Kherson Regional Administration. ‘It leaves the occupants uneasy every day, reminding them about the fact that Kherson is Ukraine.’

Mr Khlan said more organised efforts were starting in Kherson as Russia tries to impose its currency and language before the planned annexation. 

‘It’s too early to talk about it but we have cases already when collaborators just disappear,’ he said.

Heavy fighting is underway in the eastern Donbas region, but battles are also taking place to the west of Kherson as Ukraine counter-attacks

Areas of Donetsk and neighbouring Luhansk which were occupied by pro-Russian rebels before the start of the war – so-called ‘People’s Republics’ – announced a general mobilisation in late February, just before the war broke it.

All men under the age of 55 were banned from leaving the territory, and put on notice that they might be called up to join the fighting.

Since then, Denis Pushilin – leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic – has been forced to raise the age to 65, because so few men have been found to join the army.

Those in the occupied areas – many of whom consider Ukraine to be their home country – have described thousands of men going into hiding to avoid the draft.

Fighting-age men are said to be hiding in the basements and back-rooms of houses where no males are registered, since the draft is organised by address.

Residents who spoke to The Guardian last month said many come out at night, when military patrols looking for conscripts are less frequent.

‘When I walk my dog at 11pm I could see the silhouettes of men smoking behind the curtains, with a window open,’ said one person who asked for anonymity.

Russian troops and dogs patrol the streets of Kherson, which has been under occupation since early March when Putin’s men captured it

‘It usually takes 45 minute to fix a problem with my tyres, and I just grab a coffee nearby,’ said another woman.

‘But last time I was asked to drop my car and leave it over the weekend so that they could bring a guy to fix it at night.’ 

All those who did not avoid the conscription have been sent away to the frontlines, often poorly armed and with ageing Soviet equipment – some of it dating back to the Second World War.

DPR units have been photographed fighting in Mariupol, across the Donbas, and in the southern Kherson region.

Russian forces have taken heavy losses during the war, which is now a little over three months old, and DPR forces have been no exception.

In an update late last month, the government gave total casualties as 1,912 soldiers killed and 7,919 wounded since the start of the war.

In 2015, it was estimated the DPR’s total military was between 30,000 and 35,000 men, meaning almost a third of that force is now out of action. 

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