Nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers reportedly used Ukraine’s “I Want to Live” hotline to offer their voluntary surrender.
A total of 9,836 mobilized people from Russia and temporarily occupied areas of Ukraine have submitted a surrender request to the center, Ukrainian officials reported on Friday.
The project, run by the Coordination Center for the Treatment of Prisoners of War with the support of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and the Main Intelligence Directorate, launched in September to give Russian and Belarusian military personnel an option other than fighting and risking their lives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 21 ordered the partial conscription of about 300,000 reservists and ex-servicemen, although the number began to dwindle shortly after mobilization. For example, tens of thousands of Russians called to the battlefield left in October because they had been mobilized by mistake.
The number of appeals stood at about 3,500 in November, the same month when the wives and mothers of 21 mobilized Russian soldiers claimed that men in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine were being held captive and threatened with execution for refusing to physically to engage.
Russian soldiers, who may or may not have been mobilized, use the project’s chatbot to fill out a questionnaire that states they declare no intention to physically combat Ukrainians. The hotline, in turn, provides said Russians with information on how to process their surrender while in Ukraine.
The hotline itself has been visited by more than 14 million people since September, officials added, including about 84 percent of them visitors from Russia.
Ukrainian officials will not reveal the number of Russians who have already surrendered, but emphasize that “their numbers are constantly growing, as is Russian interest in the project.”
In addition to complying with the Geneva Conventions and providing help and legal support through a variety of international organizations, the project guarantees three meals a day, medical care and potential contact with relatives.
It also offers the possibility of exchanging captured Ukrainians for extradited Russians and the possibility of applying for asylum in Ukraine or other European countries.
A meeting Thursday, attended by Ukraine’s defense ministry chief intelligence officer Kiryl Budanov and interior minister Igor Klimenko, among others, included discussions on continued support for prisoners’ families as well as “new approaches for the post-isolation period.” Accompaniment of released soldiers.”
“Questions have been raised about cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross and its role in assisting our citizens on the territory of the aggressor state,” the coordinating headquarters said.
Ukraine has reported that Russia has lost nearly 150,000 troops since the war began on February 24, 2022.
Maria Popova, associate professor of political science at McGill University, said news week that although the figure is disputed by Russian officials, “the general point is that the Ukrainian government has proven its credibility during the war”.
“Being open to media scrutiny and concerned about Allied support, it produces credible messages,” she said. “I have no particular reason to distrust their estimates. Russia, on the other hand, has consistently used disinformation and outright lies. Therefore, his assessment of the number of victims should be viewed through the lens of disinformation rather than taken at face value.”
The claimed high number of casualties for Russia reflects both the ineptitude on the battlefield and the military approach of the aggressor, who, according to Popova, has “little regard for the number of lives lost, gives little priority to saving the wounded, and possibly even to the… shoots his own forces in the back to force them to advance.”
news week contacted the Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War for comments.