We think we found another reason why Russian troops are unmotivated to fight in Ukraine. It seems that Russia is fighting a war on multiple fronts, one with Ukraine, another with dissenters and protesters in their own country, and another one with their own soldiers. A report by Russian but Latvia-based news site Meduza has stated that Russian contract soldiers are being threatened with criminal charges so that they cannot leave the battlefield.

That’s right. Contract soldiers, those who willingly signed up to fight and did not go through the conscription, are being threatened with criminal charges of desertion and treason if they express that they want to leave and break free of their contract.

According to the report, a young contract soldier named Ivan, who was born in 2001, signed on as a “contract” soldier in the Russian army.  Contract soldiers differ from conscripts in that they volunteer for a longer term of service than the 12 months conscripts are subjected to.  SOFREP previously reported that conscripts tend to be drawn from the more impoverished areas of Russia and often lacking in education and job skills.  More so, we also reported how easy it is to avoid military service if the individual belongs to a wealthy or elite family, making the Russian army a virtual dumping ground for poor and uneducated Russian males.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the 2022 Victory Parade in Red Square, Moscow (Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vladimir_Putin_at_2022_Victory_Parade.jpg
President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the 2022 Victory Parade in Red Square, Moscow (Kremlin.ruCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Ivan, 21-years-old, wanted to earn money legitimately, so he signed up to serve in the military. With a monthly salary of $480 or 31,000 Russian rubles, he was willing to serve but was promised that he would be stationed somewhere close to Kemerovo so he could go home every day. With thos expectations in his contract, he signed on the dotted line on November 1 and went on to serve in Yurga, a not-so-far town from Kemerovo.

However, months would pass, and he and other soldiers were transferred and relocated, reportedly clueless about where their final destination would be. According to Ivan’s mom, Svetlana, Ivan’s duties were guarding military equipment and he “stoked the stove.”

Eventually, Ivan called his mother sometime in February, telling her that “they were on the move” and their superiors “said nothing” about their destination. Lo and behold, the reason why Ivan had not been calling his mother frequently was that he lost cellphone service as he was already in Ukraine – a fact his mother found out as the next call from Ivan would be from a borrowed cellphone belonging to a local, tracing the area code to the city of Chernihiv, Ukraine.

Once Ivan returned to Russia as the Russian forces retreated to focus on completely “liberating” the Donbas region, he revealed grim details about what we already knew – that Russia was struggling with its supply chain.

According to the contract soldier, they did not have food, so they were forced to eat anything the Ukrainian troops left behind. They also slept in random places, mostly in abandoned houses. He explained to his mother that “they would rather go to prison than back to Ukraine.”