It’s no secret that Russia has sent conscripts to fight their invasion of Ukraine, contributing partially to their failure to secure and invade major cities during the first phase of the offensive. Reports have surfaced that there was another factor that contributed to their ineffectiveness on the battlefield—inexperienced Russian-backed Donbas conscripts.
According to a report by Reuters, military conscripts from the Russian-backed Donbas region were sent into the frontlines with no training, a low supply of food and water, and were armed with Mosin-Nagant rifles from the 1800s. Several unverified photos and videos show that these conscripts were armed with bolt action Mosin-Nagant rifles from 1891 and other rifles from 1943. Similar reports from Luhansk also surfaced; however, these were also unverified.
— War Noir (@war_noir) March 4, 2022
For context, the Mosin-Nagant rifles were first developed in 1882 and were then used by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union in various conflicts, including World War I and World War II. The last time it was produced was reportedly in 1973.
A conscript was reported to say that using the rifle was “like we’re fighting with World War Two muskets,” adding, “I hate the war. I don’t want it, curse it. Why are they sending me into a slaughterhouse?”
A Russian soldier interviewed by Reuters confirmed that he had seen soldiers from the separatist Donetsk military wielding the Mosin-Nagant rifles, with Russian military journalist Semyon Pegov (who is also a Russian propagandist) also tweeting a video showing a Donbas draftee having the rifle.
Старая-добрая, а для врагов злая – винтовка Мосина
Бойцы Народной Милиции ДНР не только являются потомками и преемниками советских солдат, боровшихся с нацистами в Великую Отечественную войну, но и новых нацистов они иногда бьют тем же оружием, что и их деды и прадеды. pic.twitter.com/Qm01mhJD1w
— Семён Пегов 🇷🇺 (@wargonzoo) March 29, 2022
These conscripts were said to be drafted in late February; however, their wives and family members wrote petitions to their leaders in Donbas and to Putin himself to bring them back. A reported rally of 100 women in Donbas gathered outside Donbas’ separatist administration offices to force leaders to bring the conscripts back. Under Russian law, it is illegal for the government to send conscripts into a combat zone with less than four months of training. Skirting this law was one of the reasons Putin insists on calling his invasion of Ukraine a “Special Military Operation” rather than a war, which is clearly is.
These Russian families are remembering the history of their country. Russia sent tens of thousands of barely trained conscripts in the meat grinder that was Chechnia with the expected results, thousands were killed. With little training, inadequate arms, equipment, supplies and no combat experience, these conscripts would be slaughtered by the Ukrainian forces, who have been training with western militaries for more than a decade and are still being advised by senior officers of the US and European militaries. More so, reports have also surfaced that the conscripts did not know how to fire an automatic weapon, which indicates a severe lack of skill and knowledge about Russia’s various firearms.
“I don’t even know how to fire an automatic weapon,” a conscripted student said to a fellow conscript as they were preparing to repel a close-quarter attack from Ukraine. He was later injured during the encounter.
These conscripts also suffered from low morale as they did not have food or water, which later forced them to drink water from an extremely dirty pond. More so, another report revealed that several conscripts were forced to drink water with dead frogs in them.
“We drank water with dead frogs in it,” a conscript said. A source close to the Donetsk separatist leadership also told Reuters that supplies for their soldiers were “a disaster.”
It is due to these conditions that they immediately surrendered when a group of 135 Donbas conscripts was forced to fight on the frontlines of Mariupol. We wouldn’t be shocked as they were using Mosin rifles against more modern rifles and automatic weapons.
“We’re refusing (to fight),” a conscript said to his partner through a text message. The account of these conscripts surrendering in Mariupol was also verified via a text message from another partner of a conscript who was interviewed by Reuters.
Another group of Donbas conscripts were also allegedly recorded to be cursing at their own leadership as they themselves were equipped with rifles (possibly also Mosin-Nagant rifles) from the 1940s, The Times reported. The videos could not be verified. However, with numerous reports of conscripts being armed with old weapons, the number of these reports lends credibility to them.
10 Russian conscripts were video recorded while traveling in the back of a truck in Sumy, where they had complained about their leaders and the hardships they had to endure during the fighting.
“Know the truth! The Russian Ministry of Defense has no idea about us or what we’re doing here. We’ve been thrown into the sh**,” a conscript said.
“They illegally took us out of Russian territory without weapons, without documents, without f****ing anything. We’re just normal people!” another conscript said. In the video, they also stated that they have only been given automatic rifles to go up against GRADS, artillery, and mortars.
“Our rifles are from the 1940s! They don’t f***ing fire! They’re sending f***ing ordinary students into war.”
Amid all the photos and videos coming from the conscripts, the leadership from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) did not comment on the matter. The Russian defense ministry also did not comment on the matter, with Russia spokesman Dmitry Peskov referring the questions back to the leadership in Donetsk as it concerned their troops.