06/28/2022, 09.58
RUSSIA
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Moscow: Largescale deployment of Caucasian and Asian troops to Ukraine front

by Vladimir Rozanskij

They come from the poorest provinces of the country. They have no source of livelihood other than conscription and war. The families of the fallen avoid talking about the conflict.  They send thugs and stragglers to fight.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - As now documented by various sources, despite the lack of official statistics and information, the vast majority of soldiers serving in Russia's occupation armies in Ukraine are of non-Russian ethnic background, but mainly Caucasian or Asian. A report by Sibir.Realii documents the conditions of the families of these "obliged" soldiers, who have no other source of livelihood besides conscription and war.

In the small town of Borzja, in the Siberian Zabajkal region, the "Avenue of Heroes" was set up a few days ago in the center of the local cemetery, with plastic wreaths to honor the many fallen soldiers of the "special military operation" in Ukraine. Borzja's nearly 30,000 residents depend almost entirely on the local military district (No. 06795). The soldiers and officers in this sector have all been sent to Ukraine, and many return in the infamous "Cargo 200," the transport of casualties in the old Soviet code. Meanwhile, their wives and mothers are engaged in another war, the one called "kommunalnaja," for obtaining social and housing services, especially when the death of their spouse in military actions is not officially recognized.

Almost all local families depend on the Armed Forces because it is difficult to find another job here. As early as January, Borzja's soldiers were used in "exercises in Belarus," only to be poured into the Ukrainian invasion as the first cannon fodder. Now there are also plans to erect a memorial "for the end of the special operation" in the foundations of Heroes' Avenue, as the editor-in-chief of local newspaper Daurskaja Nov, Nadežda Afanaseva, explains. Meanwhile, dozens of other pits are being preemptively dug.

The "official" heroes are marked with their names, and so far there are only six: Denis Frolov, Anatolij Kustov, Roman Ermilov, Vasilij Lopatin, Sergei Bronnikov, and Sergei Tsarkov, those most obviously "Russian." However, the locals count many dozens of dead sent with Cargo 200. The fact is that when the truck-catafalque arrives with the bodies of the fallen soldiers, one often cannot even get close to the coffins; at the funeral the whole town gathers, because "someone had to go and fight the Nazis," as one local resident puts it. Some are buried without names, others in marginal areas, often without the comfort of relatives.

The citizens of Borzja do not like to talk about the war, especially with outsiders and journalists from afar. According to local deputy Aleksandr Alekseenko, "better not to talk about it even in the family," he himself has been fined for "discrediting the Armed Forces" for a few careless words escaped in private conversations. "With us now it can happen that someone wants to take out his boss or a competitor for some post, so you talk over a cup of coffee and then report it to those in charge. You're still okay if they just fine you or take you out of office, and they don't send you to hard labor."

Aleksandr had said while talking to colleagues that he had heard that Ukrainians consider Russian soldiers to be occupiers, incidentally not because he had read it on the Internet, but from a missive sent by a Ukrainian relative. His friend and colleague Sergej, who has a son at the front, started accusing him of calling Russian soldiers as occupiers, and that seemed to be the end of it, until he was called to the prosecutor's office and brought to trial. The verdict was fortunately mild, only 45,000 rubles fine (about 800 euros), still over a month's salary.

Life in Borzja has become nervous and dangerous, other residents recount. There is constant vandalism, lamps and benches are broken in the streets, and there are no longer soldiers to appease the rowdier youths, because they are almost all in Ukraine.

After all, Kirill recounts, "it's not like it was much better with the soldiers: they collect thugs and stragglers for the army here, and they themselves carry out street violence and abuse of various kinds." Kirill is a musician in a local rock band, but nowadays he struggles to find bandmates to play music and young people to go to concerts, except for a few drunks who start smashing everything at the first few notes. War is destroying Ukraine, but it does not fail to ruin life in Siberia as well.

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