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Over 2,000 conscripts were in Ukraine in first days of war, Istories reports. Putin said they didn’t see action

More than 2,000 conscripts found themselves in Ukraine in the first days of the war, a former commander of a Russian intelligence group, who was at the front from February 24 to mid-March, told Istories. Most of the conscripts did not know they were being sent to war.

“According to my information, there were over 2,000 conscripts in all. When we [our unit] encountered them, we helped them and immediately organized their evacuation, sent them back to Russian territory. We understood conscripts had no business being there.”

According to the intelligence officer, conscripts were sent to the front because of the personnel shortage. Most of them simply tended to fall into a stupor during combat operations, because they had no combat experience.

“For the military, especially those without experience, for example, those poor conscripts who were sent there, the first days were a shock. For example, those from the regions [bordering on Ukraine] knew they were already on Ukrainian territory. And the rest of them just went and did not know where they were going, why they were going. That's why we had a situation the soldiers later described to Ukrainians in those videos [interviews with POWs]: “We didn't know at all where we were going.”

At first, the Russian authorities denied information that conscripts were involved in combat operations. President Vladimir Putin assured that only officers and contract servicemen, i.e. professional servicemen, saw action. According to him, “there are no conscripts” and “no one is going to send conscripts there.”

It quickly became known that this was not true. Only a few days later, the Ministry of Defense said that conscripts in Ukraine were still being “found,” and that those who had been in the rear were allegedly taken prisoner. The Ministry did not specify how many of them were there. Nor were any estimates made.

The scandal unfolded as early as the first days of the war: The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers reported that conscripts were being sent to the border regions and that communication with them was lost. Soldiers’ families raised the alarm. The media also wrote about conscripts in connection with the loss the Russian Black Sea fleet flagship, the cruiser Moskva. Dmitry Shkrebets, the father of sailor Yegor Shkrebets, was one of the first to speak out about the involvement of conscripts. For months the navy denied the fact that the conscript had been killed in action: he was “declared untraceably missing from the military unit”. It was not until June that the crew of the sunken cruiser was recognized as participants in the “special operation”. However, the Defense Ministry contradicted itself by saying that the ship did not take part in the “special operation.”

Conscripts were thrown into the combat zone by deception or coercion, The Insider reported. Often, the officers who sent conscripts did not bother to have them sign a contract and simply fabricated the documents.

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