Four Russian veterans of the war in Ukraine recently published short videos online to complain about what they called their shabby treatment after returning to the Russian region of Chechnya, after six weeks on the battlefield.
One claimed to have been denied a promised payment of nearly $2,000. Another grumbled that a local hospital declined to remove shrapnel lodged in his body.
Their public pleas for help got results, but not the kind they were hoping for. Instead, an aide to Ramzan Kadyrov, the autocrat who runs Chechnya, berated them at length on television as ingrates and forced them to recant. “I was paid much more than they promised,” said Nikolai Lipa, the young Russian who had claimed that he had been cheated.
Ordinarily, these sort of complaints might be ignored, but the swift rebuke underscores how Russian officials want to stamp out any criticism about military service in Ukraine. They need more soldiers, desperately, and are already using what some analysts call a ‘‘stealth mobilization’’ to bring in new recruits without resorting to a politically risky national draft.
To make up the manpower shortfall, the Kremlin is relying on a combination of impoverished ethnic minorities, Ukrainians from the separatist territories, mercenaries and militarized National Guard units to fight the war, and promising hefty cash incentives for volunteers. [Continue reading…]