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“We're afraid they’ll end up killed”: The parents of incarcerated Russian “balkers” are besieging the detention center administration

Russian contract soldiers who have refused to wage war in Ukraine are being sent to a specialized detention center for “balkers” in Brianka, Luhansk Region. A group of these soldiers’ relatives and parents have gathered at the doors of the detention center administration to find out the grounds for keeping their children in custody but have not received any answers. One of them, Anna (the name has been changed) offers her account to The Insider.

“The situation is a total disaster, with the parents storming the administration building. No one is letting them see their children, and no names are given either. Major Tumanov <The Insider’s note: According to Anna, he is an “LDPR” officer> is keeping their children captive, and the administration has locked the doors and won't let anyone out. The parents are standing outside, asking for names and surnames, grounds for detentions, but they aren’t getting any information.

It's painful to watch parents beg for letting them phone their children and only get refusals. They plead: “You're a Russian Federation prosecutor! Do something! Why are you too afraid of Major Tumanov to let us see our children or at least phone them? Even Ukrainians don't do that! Ukrainian soldiers’ wives can visit their husbands, bring them money, and our soldiers get horrible treatment! I don't know where to call; I’ve already called [officials in] Moscow.

We’re afraid they'll end up killed, that they’ll be sent to a hot zone, or else I don't know where.”

The Insider also managed to contact one of the “balkers” who had seen the detention center from the inside. According to him, officer Tumanov mentioned by the relatives is a lieutenant colonel. The soldier shared they were subjected to forced labor and that some of the prisoners had been transferred to the town of Krasnyi Luch, which is being shelled by the AFU:

“Yesterday, the guys and I had to work from 11 a.m. To 11 p.m, and they only fed us once. When someone sat down for a break, we got threats like: ‘Move it! If you don't unload the munitions in 30 minutes, we’ll talk to you differently.’ I’ve no idea who we’re working for. I haven’t seen a single person wearing the Ministry of Defense uniform. Then we were moved to a different location: a former penal colony in Krasnyi Luch. <The Insider’s note: Krasnyi Luch is a town 64 kilometers away from Brianka> Once we arrived, we found ourselves under heavy HIMARS fire. They razed a local mess hall to the ground. I don't feel safe, but they keep holding us here.”

As we learned on July 21, Russian contract soldiers who have refused to wage war in Ukraine are being sent to a specialized facility for “balkers” in Brianka, Luhansk Region. The Insider spoke to one such soldier, who arrived in Brianka on July 22. Ivan (the name has been changed) wrote a report on his refusal to participate in combat action for moral reasons. Before ending up in Brianka, he had spent three months in the combat zone. In Brianka, soldiers are told they will have to pass a psych eval and sit down with their commanders, who will decide their fate.

The Insider also spoke to the father of a “balker”, who shared that Russian contract soldiers had been promised a leave after three months of service and permission to refuse to participate in combat activities. However, when they decided to leave Ukraine, submitting their refusals, they were detained and brought to Brianka, where they have spent over a month in custody. According to the father, the incarceration conditions are abysmal: “Some sort of pits, torture, and the like. These are the accounts of people who returned from there.”


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