Hundreds of Russian soldiers have deserted or refused to fight in Ukraine, compounding major losses in the war, report says
- Russian troops have suffered major losses since invading Ukraine in February.
- Hundred of soldiers have also refused to fight, according to military documents obtained by the WSJ.
- Reports have also emerged of low morale among Russian troops in Ukraine.
Hundreds of Russian soldiers have refused to fight or fled their posts since the war in Ukraine began, according to report published Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.
“So many people don’t want to fight,” Russian lawyer Mikhail Benyash told the outlet. Benyash is representing a dozen service members of Russia’s National Guard, which typically stamps out protests in Russia, who were dismissed after refusing to take part in the invasion of Ukraine.
The Guardian reported last week that at least 115 Russian national guardsmen said they were fired for refusing to fight. The lawsuit they brought challenging their dismissals was rejected by a Russian court when the judge found their firings justified for “refusing to perform an official assignment.”
Benyash told The Journal soldiers who refuse to fight have been dismissed but not criminally charged because Russia has not formally declared war against Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has instead described the invasion as a “special military operation.”
Benyash also said he received requests for legal help from more than 1,000 service members and employees of the Russian agency that oversees domestic policing. He said many had either refused to fight in Ukraine or quell protests in occupied towns.
Agora, a Russian human rights group, also told The Journal upwards of 700 Russian service members contacted the group for legal assistance in relation to refusing orders.
The desertions and refusals to fight have compounded the heavy losses Russian troops have experienced in Ukraine and a shortage of boots on the ground. The UK’s defense ministry said last month Russia had likely lost one-third of its its invading ground combat forces in Ukraine since February.
Reports have also emerged of low morale among Russian troops, including going to desperate lengths to get sent home from the war. One Russian soldier said his commander shot himself in the leg just so he could leave, according to intercepted audio published by Ukraine officials.