28 October 2022

“We’re just lucky he was identified.” Interview with St. Petersburger whose brother was drafted and killed in action two weeks later

Andrei Nikiforov, an attorney at the Nevskaya College of Lawyers, received a draft notice two days after Putin’s “partial mobilization”. His service lasted only two weeks. In three days, he was “trained” and sent to Belgorod. There, he was forced to buy his own equipment before they sent him to occupied territories where he was killed in action.

On October 7th, the authorities notified Nikiforov’s family that he died near Lysychansk. Four other soldiers were killed; only Nikiforov was identified. Only two of Nikiforov’s seven fellow soldiers survived.

Yulia Kuznetsova’s (Nikiforov’s sister’s) husband and son also received draft notices. Paperpaper.ru spoke to her about Nikiforov’s dispatch to the front, what he told her on his way there, what they knew about Nikiforov’s late fellow soldiers, and why Nikiforov’s family is going to court.

Former police officer, turned lawyer. Who was Andrei Nikiforov and how did he get drafted

“We are a big family. I am the oldest sister. Andrei was my middle brother. He was 40. We also have younger brothers.

“The media mentioned Andrei’s wife, but they’d been divorced for seven years. He graduated from [Saint Petersburg] State University of Water Communications, then worked as a police investigator. He was an attorney in the Nevskaya College of Lawyers when he was drafted.

“Andrei lived at our place when the notice came. He was at work. Our sister signed it for him. Andrei picked up the summons when he came home. What could he do? He went to the Primorsky District drafting office on September 23rd, the following day.

“They wanted to take him immediately but gave him time to settle his affairs. He settled everything in just one day. On the 24th, they took him to the district’s special drafting station. We kept in contact. He called us and texted, ‘Take it easy, girls! Everything’s alright!’

“We were very close. Being siblings meant a lot to us. We lived in the same apartment, and so [Andrei’s death] came as a shock. It felt like it had happened right in front of us.”

“’Say nothing to the girls. If they ask, everything is good.’” How was Nikiforov dispatched to the front after three days of training?

“I don’t know anything about their training at Kamenka [military base near Saint Petersburg]. He didn’t tell us. He was there for just three days. After September 27th, Andrei was rarely in touch. He spent three days traveling to Belgorod through Vologda and Astrakhan. The train made several stops when more cars with drafted guys were coupled to it.

“On October 1st, he made a call from Belgorod. He mailed us his passport and other guys’ IDs. ‘Everything is alright,’ he said. In Belgorod, there was already action. We found out from our younger brother who’d been texting him. Andrei said to him, ’Say nothing to the girls. If they ask, everything is good.’

“He made another call from combat on October 2nd. It was a scene of fighting. They were allowed to make calls; their [own phones] were probably jammed. They were given a phone, so everyone used the same one.

“We later contacted the other guys’ mothers–the ones whose IDs Andrei had mailed us. [Andrei] said, “Yulia, wait for mail, you’ll get the passports.” I still don’t know why he mailed them. Maybe he knew something… I don’t know…

“The last time we talked was on October 4th. He said, “I’m going to Belgorod.” They were taken there by car to buy equipment. We wired him some money–he asked. That was in the afternoon. They went to Belgorod and bought helmets, knives and other equipment, as much as they were able to.

“On the same day, Andrei wished his daughter a happy birthday. And that was that. We lost touch with him and never heard from him again.”

How were Nikiforov’s family informed about his death and what happened to his fellow soldiers

“On October 12th, we were informed that Andrei had died five days prior on October 7th. He was near Lysychansk in the DNR and LNR [self-proclaimed republics in the Donbas]. I was shocked by the news.

“We contacted the mothers to give them the IDs. Some boys who were in the same area were in the infirmary. Their parents made calls, gave first and last names. They were told, ‘Alive,’ and that was that, end of call. There was no other information about the guys.

“As of today, there’s still no word. We keep in touch with their mothers. Of the seven boys whose IDs we received, only two are alive.

“The boys who survived have reached out to the Military Prosecutor’s office. They’re figuring out what happened, why, and how they ended up there.

“We’re all in shock, as are other parents. I’m talking to the mother [of one of the draftees]. She’s already [reached out] to the Prosecutor’s office, but she just gets bounced around.

“[The draftees’ mothers] will raise the question and, of course, sort it out. What on Earth is going on? They had no dog tags. As we found out, Andrei was only ID’ed because he had papers on him. That’s why they sent him back and gave him to us.

“Many other bodies remain without a name, and no one knows what’s going on with them or where they are. We were lucky [Andrei] was identified and had papers. We were told you should be happy his face is intact. We’re thankful that at least we got the ‘Cargo 200’ [Russian military jargon for zinc coffins containing soldiers killed in combat] and give him a proper burial. This is our dear Andrei. At least he’s with us in Petersburg… At least they brought him back…

“It was a beautiful funeral. He was buried a hero. District officials came, fellow soldiers came, guys from Kamenka too. It was exceptional, and we calmed down a bit. Of course, the questions remain. How and why? Why was he at the military base so briefly? Why did they have to buy bulletproof vests themselves?”

How Nikiforov’s family received draft notices and what are they feeling

“After Andrei, draft notices also came for my husband and my son. We’re deeply shocked. It’s a nightmare. I’m really worried.

“I’ll tell you upfront. We didn’t sign the notices. They have been issued and registered, but we didn’t sign them. We’ve talked to lawyers. I have a child with a disability too. There is no decree yet that people like us can’t be drafted.

“It’s still pending.

“We have no legal order to challenge the draft notice. And we’re outraged about these notices. What’s going on in those recruiting offices? Is there any oversight? Do they keep track of anything? Andrei’s body hadn’t even arrived yet, and they were already sending us new notices. I can’t wrap my head around this. It’s a disgrace. I feel like crying and shouting. Do they want to wipe out our whole family with this drafting of theirs?

“I am saying, as a human being, that our family is mourning. Everything was fine when I saw Andrei off on September 24th. We woke up, had breakfast, Andrei had his tea, I was helping my child pack for school, then he [Andrei] left for the enlistment office. And that was that, you know? Can’t wrap my head around it. I don’t know how to respond to any of this. I’m just shocked.

Why do Andrei’s relatives want to sue the enlistment office and what went wrong with his mobilization

“We agree with Andrei’s ex-wife. She said she was going to do something–find a lawyer. She wants to find some legal pathway because there’s nothing normal about the situation. The draft office said we need to go to the district court to raise the issue. Or wait for that decree to be signed.

“The [drafting office] staff are ‘paper people.’ They can see what’s going on from their armchairs. Their brains must be scrambled from this nonsense. We were affected by this, but how many stories like ours are out there? Just think about it.

“[Andrei’s] wife wants to know how he ended up there, why he didn’t have any training. Also, his birth month was wrong on his draft notice when we received it. We came to the station first thing in the morning thinking the notice was for someone with a different birth date. They told us it was just a paperwork error. And that’s it. 

“Some important people gave speeches at the funeral and said Andrei had died on the 9th. We were stunned. In the papers, the date is October 7th. Think about it. He’s just been buried, and they’re saying Andrei was a hero who died on October 9th. They can’t even cite the right date of death?

“We didn’t say anything because we were stunned. Even the plaque says it was the 7th. How disrespectful is this? Just appalling. It’s just some numbers for them on the draft notice and now at the cemetery.

“We don’t even know how many people are there [at the front] now. It takes a toll on your nervous system, just listening to the news… Some money is being set aside for the draft, but they end up there–excuse my language–bare-a**ed. And have to buy everything for themselves.

Paperpaper.ru — is an independent media website from Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

For 10 years we’ve been writing about the local community, businesses, and initiatives. Yet, our main goal was always to improve life in the city we love.

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.

Paperpaper.ru — is an independent media website from Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

For 10 years we’ve been writing about the local community, businesses, and initiatives. Yet, our main goal was always to improve life in the city we love.

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.

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 free speech! Donate to keep us working.

Authors: Бумага
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