On June 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russian military conscripts have never been deployed to the front lines in the Ukraine war.
Speaking in the Kremlin with the most popular Russian military bloggers/propagandists, Putin used the 18th-century Russian colonial name for the southeastern regions of Ukraine, “Novorossia” (New Russia), and claimed:
“Now the conscripts. As mentioned earlier, in the zone of the special military operation, which is taking place in Novorossia and Donbass, as we have said, we are not planning to deploy them there, and this is still the case now.”
Putin’s claim that Russian conscripts are not being deployed to the front is false.
Independent observers, governments and nongovernment organizations, as well as reputable media outlets, have documented Russia’s use of conscripts in combat in its war in Ukraine.
Last September, Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of the Russian military, extending the service period of deployed troops and activating a maximum of 300,000 conscripts from Russia’s reserves.
Officially, conscript units are intended for rear support and security roles while only professional units are supposed to serve on the front lines.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the mobilization target was met by November, but Putin allowed the processing of military personnel to continue, allegedly in consultation with the state’s legal counsel.
Putin has consistently denied that untrained personnel would participate in the special military operation. “I will talk with lawyers [about] whether it is necessary to declare by decree that it (partial mobilization) is completed,” he said. “But it is completed...”
RBC.ru reported that Putin also "clarified" that nearly 260,000 Russian servicemen drafted into the army through the mobilization are not participating in hostilities, but are being trained.
However, Siberian news media reports proved the information in the RBC article was false at the time of its publication. Several Russian conscripts were reportedly killed in Ukraine just 10 days after they were mobilized.
“Among the dead are 40-year-old Kodinets Yevgeny Dorofeev, 42-year-old resident of the village of Khrebtovoy, Alexei Shchukin, and 32-year-old Artem Smirnov from the village of Zaledeyevo,” Ngs24.ru reported on October 14, 2022.
“Relatives of the victims received a funeral on October 14 from the hands of the military commissar. It is known that the men died on October 8, exactly 10 days after they were mobilized,” it reported.
On October 13, 2022, the 74.ru website quoted the press service of the governor and the government of the Chelyabinsk as saying: “Unfortunately, the military registration and enlistment office confirmed the information about the death of five South Urals recruits from the Korkino military commissariat. We mourn together with our families, we express our sincere and deep condolences.”
Such reports have allowed independent observers to document the deaths of mobilized Russian conscripts in Ukraine and conclude that draftees have been sent directly into battle without sufficient training.
Even Russians involved in the government’s disinformation system have voiced criticism.
They include Natalia Loseva, a top Russian Orthodox Church official and first deputy chief editor of MIA Rossiya Segodnya, the Kremlin’s propaganda media conglomerate.
“Military commanders, now is not the time to lie. You shouldn’t lie at all, but now it’s a crime,” Loseva wrote in her Telegram channel on October 13, 2022, lamenting the loss in combat of a 28-year-old friend. “Conscripted September 23. Sent to the front practically a few days later. Fell, heroically, on October 10,” Loseva wrote. Her post has since received over a million views.
In February, the BBC’s Russian-language service reported that it had determined via open-source research that more than 1,000 conscripts who had been called up during Russia’s mobilization had been killed in just four months of fighting:
“As of February 13, we were able to confirm information about 1,082 dead people [who had been] called up from civilian life. This is the most conservative estimate of the number of casualties among the mobilized, since we take into account only those cases where the death is publicly confirmed and when it is possible to establish the status of the combatant.”
This reality does not align with the Kremlin’s official story. Citizens are drafted under false pretenses; deployed without preparation, sufficient military gear or even first aid equipment; and given unclear instructions. As Ben Hodges, the former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, told The Moscow Times in September 2022: “It is criminal to send untrained soldiers into combat… it’s murder.”
Hodges told Voice of America in February that Russia has substituted "sending bodies" to Ukraine and "trading bodies for time" for "an actual strategy for winning the war."
The Kremlin continuously lowers the requirements for Russian military service in order to increase recruitment, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington, DC based think tank, said on June 20.
The Russian government is notoriously untrustworthy in its reporting of battlefield casualties. In fact, the actual number of troops deployed in Ukraine may be beyond even the government’s ability to determine, the exiled Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta suggested in an October 2022 investigation into1.5 million missing military uniforms.
More recently, Novaya Gazeta reported on June 17 that Alla Fatkhelislamova received a court summons for discussing her son’s fate with reporters the previous month.
“Conscript Afanasy Podaev from the Tyumen region was killed in the Belgorod region where he was not originally meant to be stationed as part of his mandatory military training,” Novaya Gazeta reported.
A Russian court accused Podaev family members of “discrediting the Russian army” for discussing details of his death in an interview, Novaya Gazeta said.
A Siberian network 72.ru and Novaya Gazeta traced the complaint back to an individual who had submitted 764 complaints to that effect. That person, identified as Anna Korobkova, “spends two days by watching videos produced by media outlets designated as 'foreign agents' in Russia and then spends the next two days writing police complaints against the people who leave comments to the videos,” Novaya Gazeta reported.
The Russian authorities have gone to great lengths to eliminate a free flow of information on the battlefield deployment of conscripts. Still, evidence that conscripts are being used in direct combat continues to surface.