Deadbeat Dads and Ex-Cons Rounded up to Fight by Desperate Putin, Says Ukraine
After weeks of devastating losses and plummeting morale, the Russian military has devised a new way to bolster its ranks of soldiers being sent to kill civilians in Ukraine: preying on men who’ve fallen behind on alimony or credit card payments.
That’s according to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, which reports that those in debt are offered the chance to have their obligations erased in exchange for signing a contract with the Russian military. Russian prosecutors are also said to be seeking out those who’ve run afoul of the law and offering similar proposals.
“The number of such people is increasing… considering the consequences of the sanctions on the Russian economy,” the Ukrainian intelligence agency noted.
Such proposals have reportedly been documented in Tatarstan, Pyatigorsk, Rostov-on-Don, and the North Caucasus.
News of the new recruiting method comes after data from the Russian Defense Ministry was leaked Tuesday showing that more than 9,800 troops have been killed since Vladimir Putin launched his “special operation” on Feb. 24.
In between those thousands of deaths were myriad reports of Russian soldiers abandoning their tanks or feigning fuel shortages to avoid joining the war, along with similar reports of Russian soldiers seeking food from Ukrainian villagers.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, meanwhile, has insisted that Russian morale is high.
On Wednesday, he claimed it was an “absolutely irrefutable fact” that the overwhelming majority of Russians support Putin’s war against Ukraine.
It’s not clear how much of that support is manufactured, however, as a new troll factory in St. Petersburg calling itself “Cyber Front Z” has reportedly set up shop to flood the Russian internet with comments in support of Putin’s aggression.
The Russian news outlet Fontanka reports that one of its reporters managed to infiltrate the propaganda operation, which is said to rely heavily on staffers who up until now were being paid to write phony reviews on online shopping sites.
Employees are reportedly promised a salary of 45,000 rubles ($427) a month to post pro-Kremlin comments on videos shared online that are critical of the war or feature Ukrainian officials.
“The main work will be to create a patriotic picture in the comments under trending videos and in the category ‘politics and news,’” reads a message from the “curator” of the troll factory’s YouTube section.
For help with commenting, the curator reportedly sent staffers notes and pictures featuring the emblem of RIA FAN, a news site that is part of a media group whose board of trustees is headed by none other than Putin pal Yevgeny Prigozhin.
“Look, when they write that no one in Russia supports the actions of authorities, you write the opposite. You don’t need to say the majority. ‘I support it.’ … Write that, ‘well I have acquaintances that support the authorities,’” the curator was quoted saying.
When asked who was bankrolling the whole operation, the curator was quick to disavow any ties to the Russian government.
“He’s not at all connected to the Defense Ministry, it’s just a caring entrepreneur.”