In an action the Kremlin is calling a terror attack, two men on a military small arms range in Belgorod, Russia, opened fire, killing 11 men and wounding an additional 15 before themselves being shot to death. The incident happened on Saturday, October 15th. The shooters were reported to be from an unidentified former Soviet republic. Those killed had supposedly volunteered for Putin’s army and were training to fight in Ukraine.

According to the Russian News agency TASS, that nation’s Defense Ministry told reporters, “…two citizens of a CIS country committed an act of terror at training range of the Western Military District in the Belgorod Region.” CIS, or Commonwealth of Independent States, is the verbiage used by Russia to denote former Soviet Socialist States. The wounded were quickly taken to nearby medical facilities and are being treated for varying severities of gunshot wounds.

Two soldiers are shown with raised weapons
Soldiers with Kalashnikov rifles take aim at a target. Screenshot from Twitter and BNN

Baza, a Russian news site that works closely with local police, reported that the shooting occurred roughly around 10:00 AM local time. The shooting comes at a time when tensions over President Vladimir Putin’s 300,000 soldier call-up are at an all-time high, and he is facing fierce opposition from his citizens. The Guardian reports that 16,000 mobilized Russian troops are already fighting in Ukraine and that an additional 222,000 of Putin’s 300K have already been tapped for duty.

The number of Russian troops already killed in the (thus far) seven-month-long “special military operation” is staggering but can vary significantly depending on who you ask. Ukrainska Pravda puts the number of Russian dead at 64,300. They report that on October 13th alone, Ukrainian armed forces killed 500 enemy troops and took 17 drones out of the fight.

A few of the new recruits, part of Putin’s conscripted 300K, have already been sent into action. At least 20 of them have been killed. The Guardian relays the story of a man named Andrei Nikiforov. Nikiforov was a lawyer from Saint Petersburg. His life ended rather abruptly. One week, he was minding his own business, practicing law in one of the largest cities in his nation. Then, on September 25th, he received his conscription papers. By October 7th, not two weeks later, he was dead, killed near the frontlines in Lysychansk.

One Alexander Zelensky (no relation) is the head of the Nevsky Collegium of Lawyer. The late Mr. Nikiforov belonged to this group. Attorney Zelensky commented to the press, “We don’t know what happened. All we have is a time and a place.”

Nikiforov wasn’t new to military service. He was a veteran who had done at least one tour of duty in Chechnya. Mr. Zelensky noted that his colleague was not surprised to be recalled and that “he didn’t hesitate” when he got the news he would be putting on the uniform again. Zelensky continued, “He didn’t try to get out of his service. He gathered his things together and went. He acted bravely.” It reminds me of situations in our own Individual Ready Reserves (IRR) that occurred in the days leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Another of the newly deceased members of Putin’s 300K is Alexei Martynov. Mr. Martynov, age 28 at the time of his demise, was a government employee in the capital city of Moscow. He received his papers on September 23rd, and his death was announced on October 10th. Like his comrade Nikiforov, he too had previous military service but not combat experience. He was in the Semyonovsky regiment, and his duties were described as “mostly ceremonial.” 

His father was quite understandably aggrieved and furious at the news of his son’s death. In an interview with the Observer, he told them, “My son has died; what am I for? We don’t know anything more than what was put on the internet.”

Even some members of the Russian media are speaking out against the call-up. Natalya Loseva, deputy editorial director of the RT television network (which is state-controlled and funded by the Russian government), wrote an angry social media post concerning Martynov, “He had no combat experience.” She continued, “He was sent to the front within just a few days. He died heroically on October 10th.”

She then ratcheted up the heat a notch when she basically turned publicly to calling Russian military leaders liars and criminals. She wrote, “Military leaders, now is not the time to lie. You have no right to lie, and now it is a crime.”

According to Newsweek, government workers in Martynov’s office have been quitting their jobs in mass numbers in protest. An unnamed government source is quoted as telling them, “We have a mass exodus—employees leave, leaving notes in the nightstands. IT people, advertisers, marketers, PR people, and ordinary civil servants. A real mass exodus.”

Several thousand Russian citizens have left the country to avoid conscription into Putin’s illegal war.