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A Russian who joined the army for the money says his training consisted of tasks like picking up sticks. He was then sent to fight.

Ukrainian service members of the 55th Separate Artillery Brigade fire a Caesar self-propelled howitzer towards Russian troops, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, near the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine May 31, 2023Ukrainian service members of the 55th Separate Artillery Brigade fire a Caesar self-propelled howitzer towards Russian troops
Ukraine's 55th Separate Artillery Brigade fire a Caesar self-propelled howitzer toward Russian troops near the town of Avdiivka, Ukraine, in May 2023.REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi
  • A Russian soldier said he received almost no training before being sent to the front to fight.

  • He told the WSJ that he was given tasks like picking up branches and theoretical first aid classes.

  • He was captured by Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka, a key battlefront in the war.

A Russian soldier said he joined the army for the money but that his military training was made up of chores like picking up branches. He was then sent to fight in one of the war's deadliest fronts.

The man, identified as Sergei, spoke to The Wall Street Journal about his training and the fighting at Avdiivka, a town that has become one of the toughest battles in Ukraine.

Now a prisoner of war, Sergei talked to the outlet after he was captured by Ukrainian troops.

He said he signed up in October because the army would pay him more than his job as a factory worker. That job paid 30,000 rubles ($333) a month, he said, while the army would pay him 100,000 rubles ($1,110). But his family hasn't received any of that money yet, he said.

Sergei's training was mostly made up of tasks like picking up sticks and first aid lessons that were more theoretical than practical, he said.

The combat preparation he was given consisted of firing two magazines' worth of ammunition from an assault rifle, he told the Journal.

Sergei said he thought he would be driving a truck in Ukraine rather than be on the front line, but he was sent to attack.

His unit was ordered to advance on a tree line held by Ukrainian forces north of Avdiivka. They were pushed back and retreated to their starting position, he said.

Sergei was injured but soon returned to the front, he said. In late November he was captured by Ukraine.

"I felt relieved. I don't want to see this nightmare anymore," he said, describing the fighting in Avdiivka as "an animal nightmare."

Russia launched a major assault on Avdiivka in October, after Ukraine retook the town in September.

The attack is widely seen as Russia's biggest offensive effort since the start of the year. But it's been marked by huge Russian losses, according to analysts.

Ukraine said Russia lost more than 6,000 soldiers and over 400 armored vehicles there in just one week last month, though those figures cannot be independently verified.

Russia has seen no major breakthroughs in the area, though it has been slowly advancing. Its attacks have been escalating in recent days, a Ukrainian official said.

Avdiivka is a strategic town: Its position in eastern Ukraine means it acts as a gateway to Russia-occupied Ukraine.

Riley Bailey, a Russia analyst at the US think tank the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the fight at Avdiivka also holds symbolic importance to Russia, given it has not had any major victories this year.

Other Russian POWs captured at Avdiivka described heavy losses of armored vehicles and troops to the Journal, while saying they got little training before being sent there.

Soldiers, military experts, and Western intelligence have pointed out how little training many Russian troops have been given before being sent to Ukraine to fight.

This is degrading even traditionally elite Russian units and increasing their losses, the UK Ministry of Defence recently said.

Experts also say that Russia often treats its soldiers like meat as part of its tactic to try to overwhelm Ukraine's forces, not appearing to care if they die.

Sergei's complaint about pay is also common.

More than 100 soldiers went on strike at a training center in Russia last year, saying they were not getting the salaries they were promised.

Read the original article on Business Insider