Coerced into Conflict: Inside the Plight of DPR Prisoners Forced into Ukrainian Frontlines

Russia | July 5, 2024, Friday // 16:40|  views

In Sochi, a monument was erected to the soldiers of the operational-combat tactical formation of the DPR "Kaskad"

Prisoners from the so-called Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) have been coerced into frontline combat roles in Ukraine, despite promises of pardons and release, reports from "Важные истории" reveal. These individuals, recruited from DPR colonies, were initially assured that their convictions would be expunged and they would be pardoned after six months of service. However, they were subsequently forced to sign open-ended contracts under threat and held within a military unit.

The recruits, integrated into the operational-combat tactical formation "Cascade" (Kaskad) under DPR Minister of Internal Affairs Aleksey Dikiy, faced severe conditions and broken promises. Their grievances, including torture and forced combat duties, have now reached the presidential administration through official complaints.

One soldier recounted the stark reality within "Cascade": "To take a 24-hour leave, you're sent to the assault unit. Refusing is not an option." He described how the unit suffered significant losses, with wounded or sick soldiers replaced constantly. Commanders resorted to brutal tactics such as electric shocks to discipline dissenters, and escape attempts were met with beatings and immediate return to combat duties.

In January 2024, financial support for Cascade fighters ceased, and by April of the same year, the formation was disbanded along with one of its divisions. Despite being dismissed, the prisoners were not pardoned and remain under compulsion to sign contracts with the DPR Ministry of Defense.

Desperate to escape their predicament, one prisoner voiced his plea: "I want to be pardoned and free. I refuse to sign this contract. They threaten to put me on a wanted list, return me to detention centers, beat me unconscious, and throw me back into battle." Approximately 500 individuals find themselves in similar circumstances.

The "Cascade" formation, operational since 2017 under Dikiy's leadership, includes units from DPR forces and security bodies. It gained notoriety for its role in significant military actions, including the storming of "Azovstal" and engagements in Mariupol and Vuhledar. Despite its involvement, Cascade fighters do not receive benefits or social assistance typical of Russian armed forces members, as the formation is not officially part of these forces.

Moreover, the transition from DPR Ministry of Internal Affairs ranks to Russian Ministry of Defense status poses bureaucratic hurdles for former officers. Military correspondent Vlad Filin explained, "If dismissed from the DPR Ministry of Internal Affairs, their records are archived, and they start anew under the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense."

Foreign volunteers enticed to join "Cascade" with promises of adventure and luxury found themselves confronting harsh realities. Soldiers reported being outfitted in deceased Ukrainian soldiers' gear due to inadequate supplies of uniforms and equipment.

The ordeal faced by Cascade soldiers extends beyond battlefield hardships. Legal actions are being pursued against the command in the "Supreme Court of the Donetsk People's Republic" for misappropriation of funds. Following the formation's disbandment, foreign volunteers faced threats of deportation despite repeated document submissions, highlighting ongoing challenges linked to their contractual obligations with the DPR Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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Tags: DPR, prisoners, Ukraine, Russian


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