“Total clusterfuck.” Old guns, boots covered with moss, zero training: one Russian recruit’s story of the mobilisation
Павел Васильев
“Total clusterfuck.” Old guns, boots covered with moss, zero training: one Russian recruit’s story of the mobilisation
3 October 2022, 0:23

Photo: AP

Vladimir Putin announced the ‘partial mobilisation’ on September 21, and just 10 days later many of the newly drafted recruits found themselves in their units. This is the story told by one recruit from the city of Kaliningrad awaiting deployment. He describes sheer dysfunction at his base: mobilised soldiers receive boots covered with moss and Kalashnikovs from the 80s, a recruit without a driver’s license is now a designated infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) driver, and trained snipers are now portable rocket launcher operators.

I am now at the regiment base on Yemelyanova street. I was drafted on September 24. About the training: we only received two magazines max, thirty rounds each. At the range we were allowed to shoot ten times prone, ten times sitting, and ten times offhand. Guys in my unit only got to use one magazine. We went to the shooting range once, and that’s in a whole week.

15 minutes of medical training, theory. 15 minutes of tactical training. Crawled ten meters one way, ten meters back — and that’s it. Then another 15 minutes of comms training: they showed us the radio, buttons to push and stuff. No hands-on experience, no fucking nothing. Then 15 minutes on how to lay mines. They only showed it, no one got a chance to try. And that’s all the training we had.

Torn magazine pouch. Photo provided to Mediazona

Yesterday we received assault rifles. We figured, those must be from emergency supplies, all covered in oil. Some people got rusty rifles. This young guy, he wants to strip [his rifle], pulls the spring and it just snaps and falls to pieces inside the gun. What if something like this happens in Ukraine? What are you gonna do? Where are you gonna find a new weapon? Some of the magazine pouches are torn. Rags are falling apart, because they were in storage for so many years. My rifle is from 1980. All in all, they give us old junk.

In terms of gear, all we got were boots. And this one guy, his boots fell apart on the second day. I mean, not all of them do, but it happens. Some people got boots with moss covering them. [We also got] winter uniforms, peacoats and quilted pants. Plus summer uniforms: regular pants and a coat. Two sets of underwear, a winter hat and a summer cap. That’s it. Oh, and Soviet haversack bags, the ones you tie at the top. All we got from toiletries were towels. No slippers, no hygiene supplies. Two pairs of winter socks and a pairs of summer socks. But that’s total crap. If you were in the army, you’d know what kind of socks I’m talking about. Everyone mostly buys their own stuff.

I personally spent around twenty five thousand: a normal duffel bag, balaclavas, hats — we do it ourselves. And we buy medical supplies, too. They just gave us this tiny box you strap to your belt, with a roll of bandage and a tourniquet, that’s it. Everyone already came to terms with the fact we’re going to war, but we aren’t being trained and they give us this crap.

Restroom on the military base. Photo provided to Mediazona

[In the barracks,] there are five toilets per floor, but only one is working for the time being. Others are broken. And there is over 230 men on each floor. Out of six urinals, only one works. They only installed foot washers yesterday. At least the wash stands are now fixed, water’s running. Before, out of twelve wash stands maybe five were working.

No one knows shit about our future deployment [to the front lines]. For a week, we’ve been psyching ourselves up. And then yesterday, they read a list of guys who were supposed to go. But these lists change all the time. Total wankery. We were sitting on the ground since 11am. But these lists kept changing: I was on the first two, but not on the third one. OK, then they told all of us who weren’t on the list to bring our stuff back to the barracks. And the guys who were on the list went to Chkalovsk. But there, they were told the weather’s bad and they should return. In the end, they were supposed to fly out at 5am. They didn’t sleep at all, preparing for the trip. But they didn’t leave at 5 either, the next time was set 10am. Right now I don’t know if they left or not. It’s quiet out there.

We have three contract soldiers from the National Guard, they came here as volunteers. They’ve been serving as snipers for three years, and in the end one was designated as a portable rocket launcher operator, another one as a regular rifleman, and the third one is a loader. Everyone’s like, what the actual fuck?! And these guys, they don’t want to go [to Ukraine] any more, because they’re great fucking snipers, [now assigned to be] infantry like other simpletons. They came really prepared, even brought their own loot. I mean, total anarchy.

Our officers’ main concern is the paperwork. So that all of us are accounted for, every detail logged, every formal request filed. I mean, they only worry about the bookkeeping for the Navy HQ, not about our actual training. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Take my company leader at the moment: he’s a captain, was in the reserves, worked as a civilian. He went to the armor school in Tula, was a tankman. Then he got drafted, and now he’ll be leading a motor-rifle unit. He’s like, “How the fuck am I supposed to do that? OK, guys, we’re gonna learn this together.” And that’s supposed to be fucking normal?

I was a conscript five years ago. Six months as a sniper, then six months as a rifleman, assistant to a rocket launcher operator. I went everywhere with a fireteam, I know how to do this. But here, I’m just a regular infantryman. And guys who never shot a launcher became fucking operators. Guys who were operators are now snipers. I have no damn clue how these positions are assigned. A guy who’s now an IFV driver doesn’t even have a fucking driver’s license. Some seriously fucked up shit here. Total clusterfuck.

And then there are all these pointless roll calls. The officers could just go to the HQ and shoot the shit there, but no, for some reason they have to call all personnel to the grounds for an hour and a half or two, just standing there. And the officers gather up at the stand in the front and talk about something.

No training, I mean, zero. 19-year-old lads, straight from conscription service, spent two months there—didn’t shoot a single fucking bullet. Came here, went to the shooting range once and went to war. There’s this one guy, he has issues with his heart valve. At the draft office, he was told he’d have a medical examination in the unit. When he came here, they were like: “Why didn’t you get examined at the draft center?” So that’s that, he’s going to Ukraine today.

So that’s how we live. Guys who already went to Belgorod, [to the base] near Belgorod, say there aren’t any armor vests left at the depot. Rumor is, they’re being re-sold for a hundred thousand apiece, but that’s not confirmed.

There even was a [college] student here, but they sent him back home real quick yesterday. I mean, he spent like 4–5 days here. A lot of people with epilepsy, they just fall down. One guy already died at the checkpoint, unfortunately. He had seizures three times during roll call. They sent him away to the hospital and brought back. In the end, yesterday he [fell down] for the last time, unfortunately. This time the ambulance was late or something. All in all, he died right at the checkpoint. We haven’t even been deployed yet and already have a ‘gruz 200.’

Editor: Dmitry Tkachev

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