From, Feb. 18, 2023, Condensed text:

Editors’ Note. –

A Belgorod man who was mobilized for the war in Ukraine in October contacted our editorial office for help. He asked us to report on the situation in which he and other Russian servicemen had found themselves. According to him, in January, he and 204 other conscripts from Belgorod were sent, poorly armed and totally unprepared, to the Donetsk people’s republic, to the Avdeyevka cauldron, in the place of a military unit stationed near Valuiki (a city on the border of Ukraine and Belgorod Province), even though he and the other conscripts are “still officially located” in Belgorod. This man asked us not to give his name for fear that he would be killed. In several voicemails left a few days apart, he recounted how the soldiers were cowed by barrier troops and how he grew to hate the war once he was in it. Soon after speaking with us, he left a message that he was being sent “to the front.”

* * *

I’ll start by saying that on Oct. 4 [2022] we – 205 mobilized soldiers from Belgorod Province – were sent to Voronezh. We trained on the campus of the military flight school in Voronezh, and lived at 36 Kosmonavtov Street, in a dorm.

We had a supervisor, Col. Lapshin. This Lapshin abandoned us when we were still in Voronezh: We weren’t supposed to go to the special operation zone, but to Valuiki, to Soloti village, where our guns were supposed to be – we were trained to be artillerymen in Voronezh.

But we ended up in the DPR, and we didn’t have any equipment, guns or weapons, nothing aside from old AK‑74 and AKS‑74U [assault rifles], which are totally useless in the modern world.

We were quartered here, but I can’t tell you the specific place; let’s just call it Prostokvashino [a village in a popular Soviet animated series – Trans.]. There was an abandoned building, and we moved into the basement. So, basically, we somehow ended up in the First Slavyansk Brigade (First Slavyansk Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade – Ed.), a local DPR army created on the basis of the DPR militia. I have no idea how we ended up there, because our documents said that we were still training in Valuiki and not in the special operation zone. . . .

Our relatives wrote to the prosecutor’s office. After this, a check began. They identified a number of violations, including our illegal presence in the special operation zone. I guess they were supposed to do something, but now we’re leaving for the front, and I won’t find out anything about that.

Now our soldiers have been sent to the front, near Avdeyevka, to Opytnoye (a village in Pokrovsky District, Donetsk Province – Ed.). There’s a fortified area there, and it’s a cauldron. For now I’m in the reserve group, so I can write. But mortars are being fired at our guys, and they have nothing to respond with. And to repeat, we’re not infantry; we were primarily trained to be artillerymen.

There’s a minefield beyond Opytnoye, and then Avdeyevka is another 50 kilometers beyond that. If they turn the artillery guns in the direction of our guys, that’s it, that’s the end of them. And no one gives the slightest sh*t about them. The local DPR army says: “If we lose you, Russia will send new ones. They’ll announce a new round of mobilization if they have to.”

We were totally shocked. What are we fighting for here? Are we supposed to die here without a homeland, without a flag? It’s total bs. The emotions are terrifying.

I understand, of course – it’s war. But we’re not really soldiers, and we haven’t seen any combat that would gird us for battle. We were sent to such a place without any combat experience, and it turns out that one group will sit in one place and the other group, also made up of 30 people, will sit in another place. In short, they decided to dump all the mobilized people here.

It turns out that we’re covering the Donetsk Basin. But, honestly, do I really need this Donetsk Basin? I just don’t know what to think anymore. Of course, people here need to be helped and protected somehow. They were telling me how hard it is for them here in the Donetsk Basin, even though they’re in the rear. They are living under constant shelling; there’s always something banging or booming, sometimes really loud. . . .

I can’t explain any of this to my parents – they’ve been brainwashed by Russian propaganda. They believe that everything is fine here, that we are fighting, that we are winning, that we’ve had almost no losses. They don’t hear me. They don’t understand that there’s a disaster here, grief. They don’t understand how serious and terrifying everything is here.

I don’t blame them for this: There are many people in Russia who don’t understand any of this. It’s only when you come here that you start to understand that we’re in deep sh*t.

I mean, I don’t even know who can help us. It’s just that all of this needs to be made public, so that everyone knows that we exist here, that the Belgorod guys, the 205 of us, are here and that we exist. And that we are in the DPR illegally.

We are being sent to the front, and we don’t have anything. I have only one automatic rifle and four magazines with ammunition, a total of 120 rounds. This is nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s easier to just shoot yourself.

Perhaps someone will hear our cry for help. Guys from the front just told us that they were under attack on Feb. 5. They are in exactly the same situation: old Kalashnikovs and four magazines of ammunition each. They said two battalions have already fallen there, that it was a miracle that they survived. They are also recording videos and asking for help, so that someone will pay attention to them. . . .

No one is refusing to fight, since we’re here. But I cannot agree to dying so mindlessly, no one can. It’s stupid. I don’t know, my emotions are running high.

We basically have no command. Our division commander is marching to the tune of the local DPR army. But he has no choice. He was probably told: You can either go to prison or be shot. They’re bringing in barrier troops, and we have nowhere to go. We will be hit, and we have nowhere to run, because the barrier troops are behind us. Our own guys will just shoot us.

But how can we not retreat if we basically don’t have any weapons? Assault rifles can’t compete with artillery and mortars, not to mention multiple rocket launchers. We have simply been dropped, abandoned, forgotten.

Officially, of course, there aren’t any barrier troops, but in fact, we were warned: If someone turns in the opposite direction, their own barrier troops will shoot them. They said that flat out. . . .

I don’t know what to do. If you lie low, if you hide, you’ll be shot. It’s not realistic to sit there and confront the battle. The only choice is to bury ourselves as deeply as possible so they don’t get us. Because we won’t ride out such a battle, it’s not equal. We can’t run away, because our own troops will shoot us. . . .

I can write for now because I’m in the reserve group. But I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or the next day. I’ve set out for the front three or four times now, but they’ve canceled it each time. Jesus, we’re in such deep sh*t, I can’t even tell you.

If I make it back from here, I’m obviously not going to be a normal person, not in this state of mind.

My comrade just got in touch with the front line, with the guys. Here’s the situation: They’re being shot at with everything possible. They’re holding on for now. They say: “We can’t even respond, we only have assault rifles.”

We’ll find ourselves there if not today, then tomorrow. For now I’m here, I can at least do something. I can at least try to attract some attention.

I’m not afraid to fight: If I have to, then so be it. But isn’t it stupid to die like this? They won’t even send my body home, because we’re not here officially. I’ll remain somewhere off in the fields. Just like all 205 of us from Belgorod, my homeboys. They’re almost all good guys. They’re between 23 and 50. It shouldn’t be like that.

You can’t imagine how much I hate this war. I just despise it. I wake up four or five times a night. As soon as something explodes somewhere or there’s shooting, you start to turn into a fool.

Well, that’s it, I’m leaving for the front. They just announced it. I don’t know if I’ll return or not. The commanders have stooped to a new low. They’re sons of b*tches, scumbags, standing there getting drunk. Bastards.

But, seriously, I may not come back: The offensive is on the 21st. I don’t know what I’ll do, but I want to shout from the rooftops that this is a real f*ing mess. I beg you, help me if you can, help me. I won’t be in touch anymore. I’m turning off my phone – I won’t be allowed to use it.

We’re leaving. I should be in touch in early March. If I’m not, that means I was killed or am missing.