In a video circulating on social media on Thursday, a Russian soldier appeared to claim he and other soldiers deployed in Ukraine were being ordered by their superiors to sign papers retroactively firing them in what may be a move to deny their involvement in the invasion.
The Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), which has conducted open-source reporting on Russian involvement in conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, tweeted, “This rare video was filmed by a (non-captured) Russian soldier complaining about losses and harsh conditions. What caught our attention is a claim that they are forced to ‘sign papers’ to be ‘dismissed retroactively’ from the army.”
“The soldier says this dodgy paperwork is done to later claim they never went into Ukraine and stayed at their bases,” CIT added. “We are currently unable to figure out the exact purpose of this move.”
CIT also shared a more complete translation of the soldier’s remarks. In the video, the soldier reportedly said he and other soldiers had been waiting in an area for three or four days after being abandoned as “cannon fodder.” The soldier said he and others hadn’t eaten properly in three or four days and had survived on dry rations.
According to the translation of the Russian soldier’s remarks, he and others were being told to sign some papers so their unit commander “could cover themselves” and so “we could be fired behindhand.”
The soldier reportedly said the Russian military told him and others they were being deployed for military exercises. The soldier also reportedly said their forces aren’t recovering bodies and though he and others had been told for three days that they would be sent back over the border to neighboring Russia, “no one is taking us home.”
The soldier also showed the living conditions he and other soldiers had endured in and around a storehouse. The soldier reportedly said Russian Army leaders “just want to cover their asses.”
Multiple videos have circulated on social media in recent days of captured Russian soldiers claiming their leaders told them they were just being sent on training exercises, rather than a full-scale invasion of another country. If the video shared by the non-captured Russian soldier is accurate, it would suggest many Russian soldiers may have actually been deceived into participating in the invasion of Ukraine, rather than simply claiming so after being captured.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield repeated claims that Russian military leaders were deceiving their troops about the ongoing war.
“To the Russian soldiers sent to the front lines of an unjust, unnecessary war, I say: your leaders are lying to you,” Thomas-Greenfield said during a U.N. emergency session on Wednesday. “Do not commit war crimes. Do everything you can to put down your weapons and leave Ukraine.”