How 500 of Putin’s conscripts were wiped out after being made to dig trenches with three shovels


More than 500 conscripts from one Russian battalion were slaughtered in 72 hours after being dumped on the front line and told to dig trenches with just three shovels between them.

Whistleblowers said only 29 men survived the massacre of mobilised men, with another 12 wounded. Their officers had abandoned them to relentless attack from Ukrainian artillery, drones and mortars.

The slaughter of conscripts, forced to enlist last month from Voronezh in central Russia, match claims by other mobilised men who say their units also took big losses after being left leaderless.

There are also allegations that 300 marines from the Russian Far East may have been wiped out in another brutal battle further along the front.

The revelations, circulating on Russian social media, highlight concerns that the vast numbers called up by Vladimir Putin to rescue his bungled invasion are being used as cannon fodder by cowardly and incompetent commanders.

More than 500 conscripts from one Russian battalion were slaughtered in 72 hours after being dumped on the front line and told to dig trenches with just three shovels between them

They have sparked furious protests from relatives – and follow reports that a general put his pistol to the head of a recruit who had retreated and threatened to kill him. The commander was withdrawn three days later, at the end of last month.

Aleksey Agafonov told Viorstka, an online Russian media outlet, he saw ‘complete confusion and discord’ after his unit was sent near to Svatovo, a town in Luhansk region occupied by Russia since March. This area has become one of hottest spots on the front line. Ukraine is advancing two miles a week while Russia has poured in soldiers to shore up its lines in the illegally annexed region.

Agafonov said they were told they would be beefing up Russia’s territorial defence forces about ten miles to the rear. Instead, he claimed that on the night of November 1 they were dumped on the front line and ordered to dig.

‘We had three shovels per battalion, there was no provision at all,’ he said. ‘We dug in as best we could and in the morning shelling began. The officers immediately ran.’

The recruit said they attempted to dig in during lulls in the shelling ‘but drones immediately spotted us and simply shot us’. Agafonov said that when they fled the front ‘without seeing the officers’ they found professional soldiers sitting in trenches further back.

‘New arrivals are grouped into new battalions and thrown to the front to close the line of defence,’ he claimed. Although his allegations are unverified, they are backed by a second mobilised man called Nikolai Voronin. ‘Everything Agafonov said is true,’ he said. ‘There are a lot of dead.’

Voronin added that there were so few shovels that the soldiers were trying to dig trenches with bayonets and knives.

A video shows soldiers staging mutiny against general at training base in Kazan

A video shows soldiers staging mutiny against general at training base in Kazan

Agafonov claimed a second battalion was crushed in the same area. Subsequent reports have disclosed that many mobilised men from other regions of Russia were killed there in the days before his arrival. A soldier’s wife said 128 conscripts were sent to the front after just a few days of training, to be abandoned by their officers without communications and armed only with semi-automatic rifles to confront Ukrainian artillery. The woman, who asked not to be named, said they held their position for a fortnight under intense attack but ’many boys died’.

Her husband was among 12 men who escaped the carnage – only to be sent back a few days later.

At the weekend around 50 relatives staged protests in front of Voronezh government buildings. ‘Why the hell do they say they’re alive and healthy when they’ve all been killed there?’ asked Oksana Kholodova, the mother of one soldier.

She added that relatives had phoned some of the men in hiding during a meeting with the regional governor and that they confirmed their situation. ‘Let them fight,’ said Kholodova. ‘But not on the front line and without any equipment.’

Voronin added that there were so few shovels that the soldiers were trying to dig trenches with bayonets and knives

Voronin added that there were so few shovels that the soldiers were trying to dig trenches with bayonets and knives

Anna, whose husband survived the Svatovo massacre, said they wanted everyone to know how badly the men had been treated. ‘They were abandoned like kittens without preparation, without anything,’ she said.

Other women said survivors were hiding in Svatovo, fearful of repercussions. ‘They did not sleep, did not eat – for three days they held the defence and did not run anywhere, unlike the commanders,’ said one.

Serhiy Haiday, Ukrainian head of Luhansk region, said Russian forces were making repeated efforts to breach their lines using newly-mobilised men and mercenaries from the Wagner group, including troops recruited from prisons. He confirmed that Russia ‘lost a battalion, around 500 soldiers’ in fighting near Svatovo. ‘The soldiers attacking our positions are basically walking over the bodies of their comrades,’ said Haiday.

Putin repeatedly said there was no need for mobilisation when launching his ‘special operation’ in February. But then, panicked by the speed of Kyiv’s counter-attack in September, he announced a call-up that led 700,000 men to flee Russia.

The tyrant claims 318,000 men have been conscripted with 80,000 already in the war zone. Independent media estimate that more than a million people will end up being mobilised. Pro-Kremlin groups have accused Ukraine of spreading lies about Russian military losses.

Additional reporting by Kate Baklitskaya

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