Sokolova, 37, cried for him too, and for their nearly year-old baby son, she said in a telephone interview from her home in Voronezh, in western Russia.
Sokolova is among dozens of soldier’s spouses and other relatives who are voicing remarkably public — and risky — anger and fear over the terrible conditions that new conscripts have faced on the front lines of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The soldiers’ relatives, mostly people who would normally stay out of politics, are tempting the wrath of the Kremlin by posting videos online and in Russian independent media, and even speaking to foreign journalists. They say that mobilized soldiers were deployed into battle with little training, poor equipment and often no clear orders. Many are exhausted and confused, according to their families. Some wander lost in the woods for days. Others refuse to fight.
“Of course he had no idea how terrible it would be there,” Sokolova told The Washington Post. “We watch our federal TV channels and they say that everything is perfect.”
The relatives typically do not criticize President Vladimir Putin or even the war, but their videos have exposed the rock-bottom morale of many conscripts, as Russia tries to surmount its recent losses by throwing a claimed 318,000 reinforcements into battle.
Yana, a transport worker from St. Petersburg, was a fervent pro-war patriot until her partner was mobilized.
In a phone interview, Yana confirmed video accounts by other military spouses that the men had to buy their own warm uniforms and boots and had little training. In Ukraine, they were given no food or water.
“They do not have any orders and they do not have any tasks,” she said. “I spoke to my husband yesterday and he said that they have no clue what to do. They were just abandoned and they have lost all trust, all faith in the authorities.”
On the videos, wives recite lists of grievances in tremulous voices. Conscripts pose in body armor that barely covers their ribs or film themselves in Ukrainian forests, listing their dead and complaining their officers are nowhere to be seen.
Details in the videos could not be independently verified but are consistent with accounts that family members provided in interviews with The Post, and with reports by independent Russian media, such as ASTRA, which exposed seven basement prisons for deserters in Luhansk.
Sokolova’s husband was mobilized to fight in the 252nd Motorized Rifle Regiment on Sept. 22. He told her that he received no military training “and by Sept. 26, he was already in Ukraine,” she said.
He phoned late last month, having barely survived a major battle in which his unit was surrounded and many were killed. He and two others escaped without their backpacks…