Russia’s Defense Ministry acknowledged Wednesday that some conscripts were taking part in the conflict in Ukraine, coming after President Vladimir Putin denied such reports and said only professional soldiers were sent to fight.
The Defense Ministry added that some of the conscripts, while serving in supply units, had been taken prisoner by the Ukrainian army since the conflict began on Feb. 24.
“Unfortunately, we have discovered several facts of the presence of conscripts in units taking part in the special military operation in Ukraine. Practically all such soldiers have been pulled out to Russia,” the Defense Ministry said.
Russian officials said they are launching an investigation into the matter.
Earlier, a group that claims to represent the mothers of Russian soldiers said that their sons were forced or pressured into joining the Russian military.
“Mothers are telling us that their sons have been calling them and saying they’re being forced to sign contracts. We believe it’s wrong to force a conscript to become a contract soldier,” Olga Larkina, the director of Russia’s Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, told Russian media. “The parents who have gotten in touch have told us their sons were just taken by military officers, stamped, and that’s it—now they’re contract soldiers.”
Putin, however, issued a statement via state media on Monday that neither conscripts nor reservists are being used in the conflict.
“I emphasize that conscript soldiers are not participating in hostilities and will not participate in them. And there will be no additional call-up of reservists,” Putin said during a televised event.
And the Russian leader added only “professional servicemen” are taking part, according to state-run media. “I am convinced they will reliably ensure security and peace for the people of Russia,” he added.
After two weeks, Russia has struggled more than anticipated at the outset of the conflict, according to Pentagon officials in a Tuesday call with reporters.