One fighter was shot twice and sent from hospital to the front lines, where he drank melted snow to live. The soldier was forced to assault Ukrainian positions repeatedly, until a grenade blinded him. The young man was saved from the trenches by a doctor who turned him into a hospital orderly.
Another man who was jailed at 20 on minor drug charges was sent to the front at 23. With hardly any training, he died three weeks later; he was among 60 Russians likely to have been killed in an assault on the same day that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin celebrated the defeat of the Nazis in Red Square.
These two stories, of remarkable survival and untimely death, epitomize the sordid and grueling loss of life in the Russian trenches in the Ukraine. However, there is a distinction: the dead are prisoners, who are promised a respite from their prison terms if they join the so-called Storm-Z battalions run by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Life expectancy is short, the conditions themselves are difficult to survive, and convicts describe using them as cannon fodder. Tens of thousands of convicts have been recruited to serve on the front lines, initially by the Wagner mercenary group, a scheme later taken over by the Defense Ministry.
CNN spoke to the mother of a convict, Andrei, who was jailed at age 20 on drug charges and sent to the front lines as part of the Russian army’s conscription program. The mother provided extensive videos, documentation, and chat messages to verify the story of her son and her untimely death, just three weeks after deployment.
Read the full note here.
2 hours ago
Putin and Lukashenko discussed the Wagner group during their meeting, according to the Kremlin
By Anna Chernova
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko discussed the private military company Wagner — which staged a failed mutiny against Moscow last month — in their recent talks in St. Petersburg, according to the Kremlin.
“The issue of the Wagner group was also raised there, the issue of trade and economic cooperation, as well as the State of the Union, and the external threat along the perimeter of our countries. All this, of course, was on the agenda,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.
Peskov did not elaborate on what the two leaders discussed in relation to Wagner, but added that the meeting served to align positions and share points of view on multiple issues.
“There were no goals of reaching any agreement,” Peskov continued.
Lukashenko arrived in Russia last Saturday and held meetings with Putin in Saint Petersburg this Sunday and Monday, according to the press services of both presidencies.
Some background: Lukashenko remains Putin’s closest ally since he allowed Russian forces to use Belarusian territory to launch their invasion of Ukraine.
Wagner’s forces were stationed in Belarus after Lukashenko helped broker a deal to end the group’s short-lived insurrection against the Kremlin.
According to Ukraine, there are already 5,000 fighters in the country.
Last week, the Belarusian Defense Ministry declared that it would hold joint military sessions with Wagner’s troops after the failure of the rebellion.
3 hours ago
The Russian Parliament approves an amendment to extend the age of compulsory military service from 18 to 30 years
By Anna Chernova
Russia’s State Duma has approved an amendment extending the age of conscription to include citizens aged 18 to 30.
“From January 1, 2024, citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 will be able to be called up for military service. The bill has been approved today in third reading,” read an official statement from the State Duma on Telegram.
Previously, military service was compulsory for Russian citizens between the ages of 18 and 27.
The new bill will now be referred to the Federation Council for further review before the law can be signed by President Vladimir Putin.
The senators of the Federation Council will support the law, Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the Upper House, declared, adding that “there is no reason for excessive resonance” regarding these changes, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti.
4 hours ago
‘Impossible’ for Russia to rejoin grain deal, says Kremlin
By Anna Chernova
The Kremlin has said it is “impossible” for Russia to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal until all conditions are met, including those proposed by UN Secretary General António Guterres.
“Mr. Guterres’ letter [to Russian President Vladimir Putin] once again outlined a certain plan of action and the