Ukraine: Putin exploits rural conscription to avoid protests
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Vladimir Putin is targeting rural areas of Russia for military conscription to avoid extensive questioning on casualties, it has been claimed. Accredited Russian journalist Andrei Soldatov suggested President Puti “understood something about the war in Chechnya” and adapted his strategy for Ukraine on the lessons learned in the past. The Chechnya war refers to two separate rebellions by the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria against Russian rule.
The first war spanned from 1994-1996, with the second conflict lasting just under a year between 1999 and 2000
Mr Soldatov suggested Putin’s new conscription approach focussed on rural conscription has emerged from his knowledge of the Chechnya conflict.
Morale and support for conflict often decline when the scale of human loss is revealed.
DW’sConflict Zone host Tim Sebastian suggested relatives of soldiers are often a key source of information in reporting war casualties.
Mr Sebastian said: “Soldier’s mothers have shown themselves, in the past, to be a pretty formidable voice in Russian society.”
Mr Soldatov agreed and argued that was the reason that Putin knows “it is better not to have soldiers drafted in big cities and sent to the war”.
He added: “That is why you see all these people now taking prisoners in Ukraine are mostly from Siberia [and] from distant regions in Central Russia like Moldova.”
Mr Sebastian asked, referencing the possibility of the conscripts’ death in the Ukraine invasion: “Are you saying people won’t care about them?”
Mr Soldatov said: “Well, if you have some people killed and their relatives are in a small town in Moldova, that would be a problem only for their small community, not for cities like Moscow.”
He also explained Putin intends to minimise Russian citizens’ knowledge of conflict-related fatalities by conscripting soldiers in isolated rural regions.
The investigative journalist suggested news of fatalities would reach and affect a far smaller population than losses in a larger, heavily populated, and well-connected city.
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On the Russian front, casualties remain largely concealed as the invading forces seek to appear strong and undefeatable.
The Russian Ministry of Defence has issued varying reports suggesting the current figure of Russian soldier fatalities.
In early March, a reported 498 deaths of Russian soldiers was announced, although the reliability of this statistic remains uncertain.
Reporting of high Russian casualties in the Ukrainian invasion would threaten Putin’s regime and risk a revolution among the mourning Russian population.
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Current figures surrounding Ukrainian casualties are more readily available and updated.
The most recent statistics from Ukraine have reported an estimated 2,685 civilian casualties with 1,035 killed and 1,650 injured.
The record of war-related casualties is ongoing and the realistic number of Ukrainian casualties is expected to increase significantly as reports are updated.
A statement from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights explained “as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration”.
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