When I read this article, I thought of thanking God for two daughters I have...
According to a survey by the Horshenin Institute, almost 73% of Ukrainians believe that the increased funding of the army will not improve life in the military. Enlistment has not been prestigious for many years now. Paradoxically, there were 11 enlistees for each vacancy in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in 2011. Why was that? Because the army would feed them, they would not have to look for work or rent an apartment. After the army, they can work as security guards. All these plusses prevail over the minuses. The only thing new conscripts are not told, neither before, nor after taking the oath, is that a soldier is the slave of his commanding officer.
SOLDIERS FOR SALE
“In summer, soldiers work for all entrepreneurs here,” says former officer, Volodymyr Lazarenko. “They simply earn money for their commander. Those who refuse, are beaten. That’s why everyone is afraid and downtrodden”.
Mr. Lazarenko served in unit A 0801 in Ponyzivka, a village near Yalta. According to him, Vitaliy Smiriagin, the local commander, has been earning at the expense of soldiers for many years. “Soldiers would run away from him when he was still the commander of another unit,” Mr. Lazarenko says. “Back then, he forced soldiers to gather three to four truckloads of rocks every day. Dead tired, the guys would fall asleep on duty. Eventually, they could no longer stand it and deserted. The commander took the money earned by the soldiers. I mentioned this to headquarters a few times but they did absolutely nothing.” Smiriagin was later transferred to another unit, where he continued these operations.
The soldiers under Smiriagin’s command confirm Mr. Lazarenko’s words. Oleh Balabansky left the service a year ago. He remembers his stint in the army with horror. The worst thing, he says, was not the meager gruel, strict rules or even the bullying. The most difficult thing was the fact that together with other soldiers, they were given new work almost every day. “Sometimes, they would send 10 soldiers to work at a time, six to one place and four to another, while one person stayed at the barracks, who had to clean up the whole territory by himself.” Oleh recalls. “The worst job was to dig graves. I was digging one once and a guy next to us with a finger-thick golden chain around his neck kept barking “Come on, faster, faster!”
MONEY FOR OFFICERS, ICE CREAM FOR SOLDIERS
Commander Smiriagin is easy to find and still easier to negotiate with. He goes to the checkpoint, listens to the journalist’s story about a truck of bricks that needs to be unloaded and offers as many soldiers as necessary. We just need two. They are waiting for us at the checkpoint next morning. The commander takes UAH 200 for the work. Nobody checks our passports. In other words, he does not care who we are and what we are going to do with the soldiers.
The latter do not ask anything either, even when we take them for an ice-cream instead of unloading bricks. They still remain silent, when they find out by whom and why they have been bought. We took the soldiers to the commanders of the Crimean Military Law Enforcement Service and confirmed our story about the purchase of soldiers from Smiriagin with a video taken on the phone.
The scared soldiers recounted their experience of military service. Private Mykola said he unloaded trucks and dug trenches in Simeyiz and Yalta. Over six months in the army, he has worked outside the barracks seven or eight times. The military police decided to pay a visit to unit A 0801 to catch the commander red-handed. Half an hour later, the roll call revealed that two soldiers were missing. The officer was unable to explain where they were. When the journalists happened to show up with the soldiers, the military police registered a violation committed by the officer - sending soldiers to work outside the base for money.
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