In Russia, ethnic minority men were sent to death in Ukraine: “They put him in the front line, he died, but no one knew”

There are about a hundred graves in this square of the cemetery. Men who lost their lives fighting in Ukraine in 2022. ©Paul Gogo

Vladimir gets out of the car, cigarette in mouth. He runs near the graves. “Look, he was born in 2001 and will be 21 years old in 2022. What is the use of destroying our youth? ”, He says without waiting for an answer. He adjusts some flower garlands, dusts off some portraits of snow-covered soldiers and sits back in the embrace.

Between the abandonments and the missing…

The retiree heard about the corruption that plagued the region during the regional mobilization that began in September 2022. Inspired by Stalin and the deportation of minorities, Vladimir Putin secretly asked the Ministry of Defense to mobilize these representatives. Minorities. In fact, if the Buryats represented only 22% of the population of the region, they were actually sent to the Donbass and as far as Bautsa in 2022. Dagestanis, a people of the Caucasus. In total, 318,000 Russians have been mobilized for the Ukrainian conflict, according to the latest information provided by the Russian president. An image beneath the truth.

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Like most Russians, Vladimir is tired of this war, he does not understand its purpose, and wants to end it as quickly as possible. “Our media doesn't talk about it, but everyone talks about it privately. But what do you want us to do? ”, he sighs. Given his age, he is unlikely to be mobilized, but war is ubiquitous in his retinue. “There were many clues at the start of the conflict. I have a soldier acquaintance who went to Ukraine with his battalion. Seeing his fighting circumstances, he packed his belongings to escape, and they arrested him and imprisoned him for the next five years. ” The man also lost a friend who died in battle within days of being mobilized. “They sent him to the front line and he died quickly, but no one knewHe slips away. With no information from him, his wife contacted the military authorities. Eventually an officer came to her house and told her he was dead and showed her where he was buried. A few days later, the military police came to her house to book her husband! He was not declared dead to the civil authorities.

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Soldiers driven by poverty

But Buryatia is one of the poorest regions of Russia, our interlocutor reminds us. Many local men also joined the army themselves, both before and after mobilization. A way to earn a decent salary, status and social support…”The middle class lives between two waters, often being dragged down. But the vast majority of people live kopeck to kopeck, loan to loan. Some of our villages don't even have drinking water…while our 'servants of the people' live like kings.”, condemned Vladimir.

Mobilized for eternity

The decree announcing demobilization issued by Vladimir Putin in September 2022 was never revoked. And eager not to involve the Russians in the war, the Kremlin master confirmed and accepted the fact that the return of the demobilized would take place only at the end of the conflict. The possibility that the demobilized would never return alive led to several protest movements across the country by mothers and wives of soldiers. The government says that the attitude of people who are ready to die for their motherland should be adopted.

But in this environment, anxious not to inflame social tensions, the Kremlin has prudently turned to Russia's Central Asian diaspora, rounded up almost daily at construction sites and youth hostels in the country.

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Racial recruitment

Ariana, an energetic young man in his thirties, was of Buryat descent. His conscientious anti-war commitment had its roots in the early days of the invasion. “They lied and made my cousin believe that he was going to participate in army training. When his father found out he was in Ukraine, he died of a heart attack. On leave, my cousin wrote a request not to return, the law still allowed, and it worked”, she remembers.

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On September 21, 2022, the authorities of Buryatia immediately began to mobilize. “The big cities called the public servants in the villages, who replied that they would have to wait until the next day. In our villages, everyone knew each other, there was panic, many came to hide here in Ulan-Ude, others in Mongolia.“, she says. The young woman sees the ubiquity of Buryat soldiers in Ukraine as a sign of xenophobia. “We experience racism everyday and they know that our people are poor and they will never rebel. And, unlike the Russians, we have some familial ties to Ukraine, who surely imagined ours would fight more coldly.“, she believes.

She wants mobilization and war to end as quickly as possible, an existential issue in her view. “We are already noticing that our men are becoming increasingly scarce, and some industries can no longer find workers. And our women have already started saying that they want to go to other Asian countries to find men who are physically similar to them to help our people survive. We don't want this war. “

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