Russia has a long history of extorting money from its own soldiers

Since Russia’s wars in Chechnya, the country has allegedly tried to extort money from some of its own soldiers, according to a Russian human rights activist.

Valentina Melnikova, the executive secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia, told the independent news site Meduza in an interview that her organization had received complaints about Russian soldiers being asked to pay for weapons and other equipment they lost in combat . The Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia advocates for soldiers’ rights and seeks to help soldiers affected by these alleged attempts at blackmail.

Russia has focused its offensive on the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine after initially concentrating the invasion around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, which began in late February. According to a campaign assessment for Wednesday by the Institute for the Study of War, Russian forces “prioritised advances east and west of Popasna to cut Ukrainian ground communications lines (GLOCs) southwest of Severodonetsk and complete encirclement efforts in Luhansk Oblast.” Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Malyar said Thursday that “fighting has reached its maximum intensity.” The Washington Post.

The military’s alleged efforts to extract money from its soldiers underscore larger indications of low morale and mistreatment of Russian soldiers. While the Kremlin and Russian officials have not appeared to have addressed the various allegations and reports pointing to these issues of discontent, requiring soldiers to hand over cash in addition to their service could create additional problems for a military that reportedly does the same faced with a rebellion is problem.

Russian soldiers allegedly blackmailed
The executive secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia said her organization had received complaints about Russian soldiers being asked to pay for weapons and other equipment they lost in combat. Above, a Russian soldier guards the destroyed part of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol May 18, 2022 amid ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.
Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images

Melnikova mentioned a complaint that came after several soldiers escaped captivity, relying on vegetables from gardens to survive, and then were asked to pay for the weapons they lost when they finally got to theirs unit returned.

“There was another case when soldiers had to undergo drills before the war,” Melnikova said. “Some of them handed in their ammunition and refused to go to the front lines, and their supervisor demanded that they pay for the ammunition: ‘Where is your body armor? Did you hand it in or not? You have to pay for it.’ “

She said her organization has faced these problems since the wars in Chechnya, now a Republic of Russia. The First Chechen War took place from 1994 to 1996 and the Second Chechen War from 1999 to 2009.

“In the Second Chechen War, a man returned home from the war and his unit presented him with the number of weapons he allegedly lost – more weapons than could fit on a KAMAZ truck,” Melnikova said.

She said the organization is trying to ensure that nobody is “blackmailing” the soldiers and that they report any problems to the Russian Attorney General.

“When the guys report these cases themselves, they don’t even know who is asking for the money,” Melnikova told Meduza. “The soldiers just say ‘she’, but they don’t know who that ‘she’ is. But for us it’s signal enough: the public prosecutor has to come and clarify this.”

When asked how often authorities are willing to help with complaints, Melnikova said they take action when it comes to specific soldiers.

“But the answers they give are usually very short. I suppose because we often ask questions that not all military structures are allowed to answer,” she added.

news week has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.

https://www.newsweek.com/russia-has-history-extorting-its-own-soldiers-money-1710563 Russia has a long history of extorting money from its own soldiers

Rick Schindler

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