Friday, May 10, 2024

After Two Years of Putin’s War, Desertions among Buryats More than Triple

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 6 – In the first months of Vladimir Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine, Moscow media celebrated the role of ethnic Buryat soldiers in that effort, a celebration that led many in Russia and many in the West to believe that the non-Russians were disproportionately ready to fight either out of patriotism or for the money the Kremlin was offering them.

            But now as that war enters its third year, new figures about desertion show that whatever willingness the Buryats had to go to war earlier quickly waned. In the two years before 2022, 55 soldiers from Buryatia and Irkutsk Oblast were charged with desertion. In the two years since, 141 in the republic and 41 in the oblast have been, an increase of more than three times (

            Some of this increase, of course, is the product of the increasing number of Buryats and Russians from Irkutsk who are in uniform. But much of it reflects both unhappiness with the war and military life and the frequent mistreatment of ethnic minorities by ethnic Russian officers and fellow soldiers – as well as Moscow’s effort to staunch this rising tide of desertions.

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