Conflicts & War

Over 4,300 Russians dial Ukraine’s surrender hotline

By Rostyslav Averchuk

Lviv, Ukraine, Dec 17 (EFE).- More than 4,300 Russian soldiers and their relatives have contacted the ‘I want to live!’ hotline which processes appeals to safely surrender to the Ukrainian armed forces, Ukrainian authorities have reported.

“They turn to us because they want to stay alive, oppose Putin’s terrorist regime but are unable to escape from serving in the army on their own,” Vitaliy Matvienko, a spokesperson for the project, tells Efe.

Soldiers can either call the hotline or get in touch with operators through its Telegram channel, which has almost 40 thousand subscribers.

Many call before being deployed to Ukraine where their movements and means of communication are often restricted by their commanders.

Matvienko says the number of calls jumped immediately after Russia’s “partial mobilization” of military reservists in September but has since remained stable with between 50 to 100 calls a day.

The hotline team does everything it can to ensure the safety of both Russians attempting to surrender and the Ukrainian servicemen who meet them.

Earlier this week a new instruction was issued for those willing to surrender to make the process safer.

The new strategy will see Russian soldiers surrendering to Ukrainian drones.

Russian soldiers will go to an agreed location where they will be met by a drone. From there they will move slowly, guided by the drone, a Ukrainian position. In this way, the Ukrainian soldiers will have full visual control over the unfolding situation without risking their lives as much.

Matvienko does not disclose the number of Russian soldiers who have already used the lifeline to surrender.

All such prisoners are officially registered as being captured in combat to prevent them from being punished by Kremlin forces and to allow them and their families to continue claiming Russian state aid.

Ukraine has said that soldiers who have surrendered are treated well, in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

“All of them undergo the controls once in Ukraine to check whether they have committed any war crimes,” says Matvienko.

If they have no blood on their hands, they can choose from several options.

They can apply for shelter in Ukraine or several European countries, such as Germany or the Netherlands. They can also choose to join the Freedom of Russia legion which mainly consists of Russians fighting for Ukraine.

And some also opt to return to Russia in prisoner exchanges because “they want to return to their families,” Matvienko adds.

The hotline is part of a coordination mechanism between various state institutions that manage prisoner exchanges.

The number of prisoners of war on both sides is not publicly available.

Ukrainian authorities have raised the alarm over the treatment of POWs by Russian forces amid allegations of torture, malnutrition and psychological pressure.

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