The sinking of the missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, cost Yegor Shkrebets his life in mid-April. The young man was doing military service and therefore legally should not be in a combat zone. After his death, his father began a crusade to break the silence of the Armed Forces and demand justice. Yegor had not been the only young Russian sent on the offensive against Ukraine. This Tuesday, the Prosecutor’s Office of one of the districts in which the Russian army is divided has recognized that some 600 recruits have participated in the hostilities and are going to be withdrawn from service. The punishment for this violation of the law will predictably fall on a dozen officers targeted by the Public Ministry.
“The recruits are not participating and will not participate in the fighting. There will also be no additional recruitment of reservists,” President Vladimir Putin stressed in a message to military women and mothers issued for Women’s Day on March 8. Two days later, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashénkov, admitted that they had detected “several cases” that contradicted Putin’s words and that those recruits would soon return home. Some of the young people had been identified after their capture by Ukraine, part of a group that had gone into combat, according to the ministry led by Sergei Shoigú.
Military service is compulsory in Russia between the ages of 18 and 27, but only professional soldiers, who have signed an employment contract with the Armed Forces, can be deployed in a conflict. However, Yegor Shkrebets was doing his military service when the Moskva was sunk. “All those responsible [del hundimiento] they must be stripped of their insignia and severely punished”, his father, Dmitri Shkrebets, has demanded over and over again on his social networks.
His search for justice these two months has earned him some notoriety in Russia. Shkrebets keeps his opinion of the offensive to himself, which he does not criticize, and shows reverential respect for the Armed Forces as an institution. But his darts leave many commanders in an uncomfortable situation, since he claims to purge responsibilities: “Even in the high command of the Black Sea Fleet,” he remarks.
The sailor’s father asked the Armed Forces what had happened to his son. The answer came in a letter from the Military Prosecutor’s Office, which the man posted in early May on his Vkontakte profile, the Russian Facebook. “The ship YD Shkrebets served on did not enter the territorial waters of Ukraine and is not included in the list of military units and formations involved in the special military operation. On April 13, 2022, during an emergency that led to her sinking, this [Yegor] He disappeared. The search has not yielded a positive result and the location of her son is unknown,” the letter said.
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Although the Government has denied these months the participation of the Moskva in the fighting, this Tuesday the Telegram channel of the Russian Defense Ombudsman has revealed that the mother of a wounded man on the ship, Gulnaz Urazayeva, has been informed that the crew has been included in the list of participants in the military campaign to “Protect their social rights in this way and ensure that families receive the payments” provided.
Jail for criticizing the army
The loss of his son has fueled criticism from Shkrebets, for whom a new law even includes prison sentences if he is considered to have discredited the army. For this reason, Shkrebets has sought among his followers a lawyer to supervise his statements. “If in the following publications you see legal problems, let me know, please, to correct it. I can’t afford to do nonsense,” he claimed on May 31.
However, a few days later he got a scare. On June 3, he told the newspaper Nastoyaschee Vremia, declared a “foreign agent” by the authorities, that “several members of a serious department” that he did not specify went to his house to take his laptop and inspect it under the accusation that from that computer “messages were sent to certain organizations with threats of bomb”. Shkrebets, who denies the accusation, says he does not know who those people were, although he is considering two options: foreign or Russian agents.
The recruit’s father claims to be fighting “against a wall of silence” in the Armed Forces, although he makes distinctions. “The leadership of the Black Sea Fleet behaves decently and approaches all parents, but the lower ranks behave badly with other parents, not with me,” he says.
It is precisely this category of officers that is being targeted for sending hundreds of young recruits to Ukraine. This Tuesday, the Army Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Western Military District, one of the areas in which the country’s troops are distributed, has estimated that some 600 young people were deployed to the front. “A dozen commanders have been responsible for this. For these violations of the law, disciplinary measures will be taken and they could be fired, “explained the representative of the Prosecutor’s Office Artur Yeguiyev.
On March 9, the same day that the presence of some recruits on the battlefield became known, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, stressed that the president was not responsible for it. “Before the start of the special military operation, on the instructions of the President of Russia, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin, all commanders of the Armed Forces units were instructed to exclude the participation of conscripts from any tasks in the Ukrainian territory”, stressed the representative of the Kremlin.
Putin’s popularity has skyrocketed since he entered into a fight with NATO at the end of 2021, and last March he had 83% approval among Russians, according to the Levada sociological research center, also a “foreign agent” for the Kremlin. However, the president does not lower his guard; he knows that the Armed Forces are one of the country’s sacred institutions and the voices of the parents of the military are very powerful. “Let us be a mass of honest people, who do not consider themselves liberals or deaf and dumb armchair patriots. Let us be free citizens of our country! Support me, people!”, was one of the last messages from Shkrebets on their social networks.
Putin dismantles the surveillance of the stadiums to reinforce the controlled territories in Ukraine with police
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has decreed a reform of the Ministry of the Interior that liquidates, among other departments, the one in charge of security in stadiums and mass events to reinforce with its police the Russian deployment in the Ukrainian territories that it controls . “These are the demands of these times. Everything is clear enough here, almost no explanation is necessary, ”said the president’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, when asked this Tuesday about the future fate of the agents.
In the State Duma they have been clearer. “Now it is important to restore order in the liberated territories [como los llama Rusia]”, he explained to Komsomolskoya Gazeta the chairman of the parliamentary committee against corruption, Kirill Kabanov. “It is logical to expect a crime wave soon, until the authorities are fully established, and the National Guard cannot replace the police,” he added.
The newspaper Kommersant indicates that the agents will be sent to the Donbas region. In addition, he adds that a new position of deputy minister of the interior will be created, who will be responsible for “strengthening the moral stability” of the police. That is, watch their loyalty. For this, a restructuring of the ranks will be carried out, which will mean a salary increase for the current workforce.
The National Guard, created a few years ago, is a mini army that only answers to the Russian president and is unrelated to the Ministry of Defense, and among its units there are riot squads. The abolished Interior Ministry department was created in 2014 to protect the Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup. Its tasks were to keep control of ultras and prevent riots in sports venues.
“We don’t need a department for international sporting events. With the sanctions, Russian athletes have been prohibited from participating in international competitions”, Kabanov stressed after highlighting that the pandemic has already hit the holding of massive events since 2020.