Over the weekend, the Ukrainian government established a hotline to connect Russian families to prisoners of war and casualties incurred during the ongoing invasion launched by President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 23.
The hotline, reportedly called “Ishchi Svoikh” (Look For Your Own), according to Radio Free Europe, hopes to cut through Russian-controlled state media and show Russian citizens, including friends and family members of troops on the ground, how severe the situation in Ukraine is.
The Washington Post also noted that the hotline is meant to win over the hearts of minds of Russians as casualties of the conflict climb. Though Moscow has not commented on the number of Russian troops lost, Ukrainian Land Troops official page shared a post claiming that more than 3,500 Russian soldiers had been killed, though it is not possible to independently verify that claim at this time.
Videos of captured Russian troops have been shared with translated captions to the Security Service of Ukraine’s official Facebook page, showing them sharing their thoughts on the invasion. It’s not possible to confirm whether or not statements by these POWs were made under duress.
“I want to say that no one needs this war. It’s very scary,” one Russian troop said.
Another added that they didn’t know what they were doing in Ukraine.
“We arrived, we reached the border, but asked the platoon commander what we were doing,” the soldier said. “He did not answer us but said go further. We don’t know the task, we don’t know its purpose.”
In a video translated by Radio Free Europe, Vadym Denisenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, promised to treat Russian POWs with human dignity, and to reunite families with the bodies of those lost in the conflict.
“For that reason, we have been forced to appeal to you, citizens of Russia, so that you can find those who were killed on our territory — and killed because he illegally crossed our border based on an illegal and despicable order by your president,” Denisenko said in a video posted to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s YouTube channel.
Russia has acknowledged that some of its personnel have been taken prisoner, wounded and killed without providing numbers, according to state media.
“Russian servicemen are showing courage and heroism during the special military operation. But, regrettably, there are killed and wounded among them,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told TASS news agency.
Konashenkov added that Russia’s losses are by far lesser than “losses among Ukrainian troops,” TASS reported.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.