Staunton, Feb. 24 – Although the Russian authorities work overtime to hide it, brutality by officers and soldiers in the Russian invasion force in Ukraine is now so bad that some veterans say things are “worse than in hell,” the product they believe of the entrance of so many former criminals into the ranks and their propensity to follow the mores of Russian streets.
That is the conclusion Olesya Gerasimenko of Verstka media draws on the basis of conversations with veterans, their relatives and their defenders after the last three months of the fighting, and the picture she paints is truly disturbing and a sign that unit cohesion is weakening (verstka.media/vnesudebnie_raspravi_kotorie_skrivayut_v_rossiiskoy_armii_issledovanie).
The closer Russian forces are to the front lines and the rarer leave has become, the more officers and even some soldiers feel they can get away with anything, she says, confident that no military prosecutor will appear and that they therefore have the power to act as they like up to and including torture, rape and murder.
According to the investigative journalist, “the problem of extrajudicial punishments, bullying and ‘non-regulation relations’ has intensified;” and the longer the forces are on the front lines, the more serious things are becoming. Those with a criminal past are leading the way in applying the rules of the streets, but regular officers aren’t far behind, soldiers say.
Both groups view those who are weaker than they as somehow less than human and therefore appropriate targets for their anger. Some Russian soldiers are shooting themselves to escape, and others, Gerasimenko says, are surrendering on occasions when there was no need for that only to escape the hell of service in the Russian military.