- A hotline set up to allow Russian soldiers to surrender is already being called, Ukraine claims.
- Ukraine says its I Want to Live hotline guarantees confidentiality and humane treatment.
- Some Russians have struggled to avoid Putin’s newly announced partial mobilization.
Russian men drafted into the war over President Vladimir Putin’s recent mobilization announcement are using a Ukrainian hotline to ask how to turn themselves in, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.
Andrii Yusov, spokesman for the department, said during a televised briefing Monday that there had been a strong response to the “I Want to Live” hotline, according to Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainska Pravda.
The hotline was announced by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on September 19, two days before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of reservists for the battlefield.
Yusov said the hotline has received “many calls” from recently conscripted Russians and even from some who have not yet been mobilized, according to the newspaper.
Yusov added, according to the newspaper, “They call and ask, ‘What should I do if I get drafted? What do I have to do, what is the right way to surrender?’”
Yusov’s comments have not been independently verified.
But Putin’s announcement sparked nationwide protests and has prompted some Russians to resort to desperate measures to get drafted.
Putin previously promised not to take the step, which brings the reality of war to Russians used to civilian life.
Flights to several countries were sold out after the announcement and some are paying up to £27,000 for private jets from Russia, according to The Guardian. Satellite images also showed traffic on Russia’s borders of people trying to leave the country.
A Telegram channel for the hotline has also garnered almost 14,000 subscribers in the 10 days since its launch.
A post from the hotline says it has also received calls from Russian-held Crimea and that the hotline is also for Ukrainians in occupied parts of the country who Russia has forced to serve in the war.
The project is “intended both for Russians who have chosen life over death for the unknown ideals of the ‘Russian world’ and for everyone else who has fallen victim to Putin’s military machine,” the post reads.
The hotline echoes assurances by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that extradited soldiers will be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law.
In a speech on Sunday – in which he switched to Russian – Zelenskyy added that Russian troops will also be allowed to surrender in private without the obligation to return to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange, Radio Free Europe reported.
“It’s better not to take a draft letter than to die as a war criminal in a foreign country,” Zelensky said, according to the outlet.
On Saturday, Putin tightened Russia’s penalties for deserters and those who refuse to fight, the outlet reported.