KEY POINTS

  • Dmitri and his fellow soldiers refused to be redeployed to Ukraine
  • Dmitri's refusal to fight in the war is the latest in a string of reports of Russian soldiers disobeying orders to join the fight
  • More than 26,000 Russian military personnel have been killed in the war

More Russian soldiers are refusing to participate in the war in Ukraine as the conflict stretches into its third month. 

Dmitri, a member of an elite Russian army brigade, had been stationed in Russia’s far east. He was first deployed to Ukraine from Belarus when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. However, they were greeted with resistance from Ukrainian forces. 

Dmitri’s unit pulled out but was later told they would again be deployed to Ukraine in early April. At the time, he said many soldiers in his brigade said they did not want to return. Along with eight other soldiers, Dmitri told his commanders that they did not want to rejoin the war. He was soon transferred to Belgorod, where he expects to be stationed until the end of his contract.

“I have served for five years in the army. My contract ends in June. I will serve my remaining time and then I am out of here,” he told The Guardian. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. We aren’t officially in a state of war, so they could not force me to go.” 

Dmitri’s refusal to fight in the war is the latest in a series of reports of Russian soldiers disobeying orders from Russian leaders to go to the battlefield as the Kremlin continuously refuses to call the invasion a war, preferring instead to call it a “special military operation.”

Ukraine’s Security Service in early May released a recording of an intercepted phone call where one Russian soldier was heard saying their unit blew up their own tanks as part of an attempt to avoid fighting in the war. 

“We have one tank left in the regiment. So, we ourselves broke our tank in the morning not to go (to battle). The APCs went without us, and there were three killed and quite many wounded, in serious condition,” the soldier told his father in the call

The exact number of soldiers who refused to fight in the war remains unclear. However, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Thursday said a total of 26,650 Russian military personnel have been killed since the beginning of the war. Moscow deployed about 150,000 men into the war in February.   

Russian soldiers walks along a street in Mariupol, Ukraine in a campaign to take the strategic port city. Russian soldiers walks along a street in Mariupol, Ukraine in a campaign to take the strategic port city. Photo: AFP / Alexander NEMENOV