Russian families turn to Ukrainian hotline in desperate search for lost soldiers

Kyiv, Ukraine — “Excuse me for disturbing you, I’m calling regarding my brother.”

The shaky voices on the finish of the road will not be calling to search for Ukrainians, nevertheless — they’re wanting for info on Russian soldiers.

In recordings shared solely with CNN by the Ukrainian officers working the hotline, the desperation and uncertainty in the callers’ voices sheds mild on how tightly Moscow is controlling communications in regards to the battle.

The recordings point out that many Russian soldiers appeared to not have identified what their plans had been or why they had been being deployed, and bolster experiences of Russian soldiers being denied communication with their families.

A spouse, talking via tears, calls with a desperate inquiry about her husband:


Translated transcript of telephone name


When was the final time he contacted you?

Caller, spouse of a Russian soldier

On February 23 when he crossed the border.


Did he let you know the place he was going?


He stated in the direction of Kyiv.


He did not say anything, no.

Videos have appeared online for the reason that invasion started on February 24 exhibiting Ukrainian civilians and soldiers permitting Russian soldiers to name residence and communicate with their mother and father.

The hotline, referred to as “Come Back From Ukraine Alive,” was established by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, which has acknowledged that the initiative is each a humanitarian and a propaganda instrument.

Kristina, a pseudonym for the girl tasked with working the hotline, requested CNN not to disclose her identification for safety causes. She is a psychologist by coaching.

Kristina, a psychologist by training, takes calls from Russians seeking information about their relatives in the Russian Army.

From an undisclosed location in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv she defined the goals of the hotline.

“First of all, we will help [the Russian solders] find their relatives who were deceived and without knowing where and why they are going and found themselves in our country. And secondly, we will help to stop the war in general,” she instructed CNN.

Since being established in the opening salvos of this battle, the hotline has been ringing continuous, Kristina stated. It has taken greater than 6,000 calls since February 24. The calls have come from areas as far aside as Vladivostok in Russia’s far east and Rostov-on-Don, shut to the Ukrainian border.

Logs additionally present a few of the calls have originated outdoors of Russia, coming from throughout Europe and at the same time as distant because the United States, together with from the states of Virginia, New York and Florida.

CNN spoke with three individuals who referred to as from the United States to verify that that they had certainly rung the hotline and see if that they had obtained any info from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry about their family members.

Marat, who lives in Virginia and isn’t being absolutely recognized by CNN to shield his privateness, stated that he had discovered a photograph of his cousin’s ID card on a Ukrainian government-connected Telegram channel referred to as “Find Your Missing,” or “Ishi Svouik” in Russian.

The channel is devoted to publishing details about captured, injured or killed Russians combating in Ukraine. It posts images of passports, names, canine tags and army unit info.

A picture of a Russian soldier's ID card shared in a Ukrainian government-connected Telegram channel.

Marat is fairly candid about his cousin’s doubtless destiny.

“We do realize that all the signs are pointing to that most likely he was killed in action, but (we are) still trying to locate information where is the body that can be potentially found. Or maybe hopefully, he’s alive,” he stated.

Marat’s household in Ufa, Russia, requested him to name the hotline for worry of prompting reprisals from Russian authorities by looking out for their son.

“The family is trying to not get contacted by anybody because everybody is so scared in Russia. Everyone’s scared to talk, everyone’s afraid of law enforcement agencies tracking them,” stated Marat.

What is more and more clear is the grip Russian President Vladimir Putin has on the narrative of this battle at residence. The solely acknowledgement of casualties has been an anodyne assertion from the Russian Ministry of Defense, saying that 498 had died.

Marina, one other caller who CNN reached by telephone in Florida, stated her aunt was not getting any info from the Russian Ministry of Defense.

“They tried to find him, but no one is answering,” Marina stated. So, she felt her solely hope was to name the Ukrainian hotline, but it surely did not have any info but on her cousin.

“They just told me that as soon as they will have some information… because I was, you know, hoping that he is like maybe in prison or something like that, you know, that he’s still alive?” Marina stated.

A senior Ukrainian authorities official instructed CNN that the hotline had related dozens of Russian families to Russian soldiers in Ukraine. “We invited them to come to Ukraine to meet with their sons, but so far none have decided (to do so).”

According to officers engaged on the hotline, the overwhelming majority who referred to as stated that their sons or husbands had instructed them they had been despatched for reservist coaching or army workout routines and that many lost contact with their families on February 22 or 23, simply earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine.

Back in Kyiv, Kristina, the hotline director, is haunted by the calls she has taken.

Through streams of tears, she stated: “A father called … he said ‘our kids are being used as expendables, as [a] meat shield. The politicians, the big people are playing their games, solving their issues, while our kids are dying, because somebody wants to make money on it or satisfy personal ambitions and become a King of the World.'”

That view from callers isn’t an exception. In one of many recordings shared with CNN, a distraught spouse, crying, telephones in.

Caller, one other spouse of a Russian soldier

Hello. Is this the place the place I can discover out if the particular person is alive?


Yes you may move the data on an individual.


Through tears, she mumbles his title and date of beginning.


When did you lose reference to him?


What do you imply a very long time in the past — was it a month, two months in the past?


More than two months.


Following an trade in regards to the hotline and private info, the spouse continues:


Are you from Ukraine?


Yes, I’m from Ukraine.


I’m sorry! This isn’t our fault… I’m scared. They did not select this.

Kristina recounts how she took one other name from a fiancée wanting for her husband-to-be. “It touched me she was asking for forgiveness. She kept saying, ‘Forgive us, we did not want to attack you. This is not our war. We did not want to do this.'”

Yet, the hotline is not simply designed to provide solutions, additionally it is a propaganda instrument, to impress Russians in opposition to the battle — a battle that now appears more and more doubtless to be protracted and bloody.

“We are trying not to think how long this will go on for,” stated Kristina. “We just hope that this will end shortly. The more people we can share the truth about what’s happening in Ukraine with — the more people will go out on streets protesting and demanding to stop this bloodshed.”

A name from a person wanting for his paratrooper brother sums up the scenario.

“Good luck guys. The whole civilized world supports you. We believe in you,” he says.

Above all, if the calls present something, it’s that this isn’t Russia’s battle — it’s Putin’s.

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