30 October 2022

“Officers are shocked to see the kind of people sent their way.” Drafted Saint Petersburg man, who has four children, tells about the chaos at the military base and a soldier’s suicide

There have been many reports of unlawful drafting in Saint Petersburg after “partial mobilization” began, including drafting of fathers with multiple dependent children, sole wage earners, and people with serious health issues. Draftees and their families complain that recruiting stations do not conduct medical examinations, while documents confirming illnesses are routinely ignored.

At the military bases, there is not enough military equipment, ammunition is mishandled, and superiors are reluctant to discharge men with serious medical conditions.

Andrei Buyuklyan, a father of four children from Saint Petersburg, had to deal with the errors and problems of the military draft. He talked to Paperpaper.ru to tell how he was drafted, why his family had to spend 100 thousand rubles on equipment, what he had heard about a soldier’s suicide at the military base in Kamenka, and what kind of training draftees receive before going to the war.

This story was published by Paperpaper.ru in Russian on October 14. On October 17, it was eventually reported that Andrei Buyuklyan was let go.

Andrei Buyuklyan

Why Andrei wound up in Kamenka despite having four children and complications of varicose veins, and how his wife is trying to bring him back

— On the 27th of September I came to Vyborgsky District’s recruiting station. I brought documents confirming that I was a father of a large family: I have three own children and a fourth child under custodial care. I was told that, to get an extension from the draft, all children must be mine. I said they’re all mine, to which the chief officer responded that it was up to the unit commanders to decide.

My wife and I made a decision to sue the recruiting station. When my wife visited them to insist they discharge me, she was told to go eff herself, although it was the officers who had broken the rules. Our next step is going to the St. Petersburg military commissar’s general office to settle this.

It blows my mind to see what a madhouse it all is. When the state violates its own law against me, I feel offended to say the least. I’m not opposed to the “special military operation” and I have the morale. But the lawlessness offends me.

How Andrei’s leg problem got worse during his service and how many people with health conditions are being drafted

— I have bad varicose veins on my right leg, which makes me limp. I am medically advised against heavy physical activity. Here at the base we have drills and you have to wear uncomfortable hard boots. This has already led to complications that make walking painful for me.

Neither me, nor any of my mates had any medical examination. At the drafting station they told me we’d do the tests at the base, so we came right there only to hear that the drafting station was supposed to conduct the examination. Mind you, you’re not guaranteed to have your diagnosis confirmed even if you do get to be examined. The only way to leave the base is to be in near-fainting condition, collapsing at the roll call.

I spent a lot of time insisting to be sent to the infirmary and to get a referral to the Military Medical Academy for examination and surgery. They should either heal me up before training or just let me go.

There’re many people in similar situations here: people who have heart diseases, epilepsy, hernias, and joint problems. They try to get to see a doctor, at least. To do that, you have to do daily rounds of visits to officers and superiors explaining what your condition is and how it will get worse during service. I have connections at the Military Medical Academy, and still it took me two weeks to get a referral.

How draftees are trained in the absence of necessary equipment

— My military specialty is mortar spotting. I expected I’d be trained to do that. It turned out that the base didn’t have the necessary equipment. The officers say everything’s been sent to the frontline. Draftees are trained as regular motorized infantry to use machine guns and bomb-throwers, and toss grenades. We were also told about military tactics, emergency medical aid, and the military communications system.

I was lucky to have had my conscription service at a battle unit where we were taught how to handle weapons. A few days of training would be enough for me to remember how to aim a mortar. But many people here in Kamenka did nothing but painting walls and cutting grass as conscripts. Those draftees have their military specialty changed to motorized infantry right away.

The entire training lasts for five days. A train with 160 people leaves every three days. Those who managed to prove they were drafted by mistake and those with exacerbated health issues stay behind.

My group arrived at the base on Wednesday, September 28, and on Friday already they were ready to send us off to Belgorod and to the frontline after that. Draftees can only be reached during three days after leaving the base. After that, they are sent to the trench lines and get off the grid. There’s no medical examination even before departure to the frontline.

What kind of equipment draftees get at their unit and what do they have to buy

— At the base, you get the standard conscript’s pack: summer and winter underwear, military uniform, wadded pants, warm coat, backpack, cooking tin, foodware, socks and gloves. Hats were not provided, supposedly because they were not needed yet. But I’m not certain if anyone gets them before leaving.

We were promised that helmets and body armor will be provided before leaving for the war, but many are skeptical about those promises and buy everything on their own money. My family spent about 100 thousand rubles [about 1600 euros] on additional equipment: body armor, comfortable clothing and shoes that I could wear without freezing.

Some highly ranked people came to Kamenka and promised we would receive uniforms; even measurements were taken. But how they’re going to deliver it to those who have already left is unclear.

What is known about the man who shot himself in Kamenka on October 6

— I did not witness the young man’s death, because my limp had gotten worse and I stopped going to the drills. From what I gather, the man had personal issues. People say he spent a lot of time on the phone arguing with his girlfriend. Generally speaking, I have heard many people complain about being dumped by girlfriends and wives because of the draft.

The problem is that control over weapons is very loose. During conscription service, recruits are not given loaded weapons except at a shooting range, while in Kamenka draftees carry charged guns around the base. That young man had an opportunity to load his weapon and shoot himself on his way to the firing range.

It’s unlikely that the suicide had anything to do with pressure at the base. There’s no harassment coming from the draftees or the officers. Everyone’s very understanding and helpful. Unlike conscripts, we don’t get work duties, and we don’t get bullied, either.

Trouble only comes from alcohol addicts who are being forced to stop drinking. They are only here because medical examinations aren’t carried out at drafting stations. These people keep drinking even while at the base.

Officers in charge of training have been to the frontline. They are shocked to see the kind of people the drafting stations send their way. But there’s pressure from above to dispatch 160 men every two or three days. They have no time to help everyone.

How draftees feel about the chaos they see at the bases

— Most people know why they are here and are confident about their choice. But there’s also a minority of people with health issues who were drafted by mistake, and some who don’t really understand what they are doing at the base.

For instance, there were two brothers in my unit, whose mother is disabled and bedridden. The men are her only providers, and they couldn’t understand why they’d been drafted. I helped them reach out to superiors. They were let go, so it seems like it’s all well.

How much money is promised during training and at the war

— As draftees, we are equated to contract soldiers, whose average wage in the region can be anywhere from 35 to 45 thousand rubles [570 to 740 euros]. With the wartime benefits and combat allowance the total will be about 80 thousand rubles [per month].

At the infirmary, I talked to a contract soldier who had been in Ukraine. He said the wages were duly paid. I’ve only been here for two weeks, so I can’t confirm that.

Paperpaper.ru — is independent media from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. We’ve been reporting on the Russian-Ukrainian war since the day it started. As a result, our website was blocked by the Russian government.

For ten years we’ve been writing about the local community, business and initiatives. Yet, our main goal was always to improve life in the city we love.

We are Russian-language media but now we translate our the most significant articles to share it with our English speaking audience. Help independent journalism — save the freedom of speech!

Authors: Бумага
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