Russia punishes officers after conscripts were sent to Ukraine

Russia has prosecuted a dozen army officers responsible for drafting conscript soldiers to fight in the Ukraine-Russia War.

Russian soldiers march in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 13, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV)
Russian soldiers march in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 13, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/PAVEL MIKHEYEV)

Russia has prosecuted around a dozen army officers after hundreds of conscripts were sent to fight in Ukraine, a military prosecutor said on Tuesday.

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that Russia is using conscripts, young men who are drafted by the state to serve in the army, saying only professional soldiers and officers are taking part in its military operation.

However, the defense ministry acknowledged in March that some had been mistakenly sent to fight.

"According to supervision of the Western Military District ... about 600 conscript soldiers were drawn into the special military operation, all of whom returned as soon as possible," prosecutor Arthur Yegiev said, speaking to Russia's upper house of parliament.

The officers who allowed this to happen have faced disciplinary proceedings including the prospect of dismissal, he said, without giving any more details.

 Service members of pro-Russian troops drive a tank along a street past a destroyed residential building during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine May 26, 2022.  (credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters) Service members of pro-Russian troops drive a tank along a street past a destroyed residential building during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine May 26, 2022. (credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Conscripts' involvement a 'highly sensitive' issue

The issue of conscripts' involvement in the war is highly sensitive in Russia. Although Russia has stopped publishing statistics about how many of its soldiers have died in Ukraine, estimates have run into the thousands.

Some associations representing mothers of Russian soldiers have raised concerns about conscripts being drafted to fight despite a lack of adequate training. All sides in the Ukraine conflict have systems of conscription, where young men are required by law to do military service.

Moscow, which sent thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24, says that it is engaged in a "special military operation" to demilitarize its neighboring country and rid it of dangerous nationalists threatening its Russian-speaking population.

Ukraine and its allies dismiss Russia's claims as a baseless pretext to launch an unprovoked war of aggression that has killed thousands, flattened cities and driven more than 6 million people to flee abroad.