Military Life

4 handy tips for veterans who decide to be mercenaries for Russia and fight in Ukraine (yes, it’s satire)

russian soldiers captured in ukraine
Captured Russian soldiers during the Battle of Sumy.

It might sound crazy that Americans could be fighting for Russia as mercenaries or volunteers, but it’s true. Almost from the beginning of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Americans have been seen fighting for the Russian Army. The Wagner Group, Russia’s go-to mercenary supplier, claims it has 10 million applications from American veterans

It’s not just Americans, either. Foreign fighters from the former Soviet Union’s republics, like Armenia, Kazakhstan, and even Latvia have joined. If the Global War on Terror has taught us anything, the first among those lessons should be that not everyone loves the West. Longtime Russian ally Syria has men fighting in Ukraine, as do pro-Russian minority groups, like South Ossetians, who were “liberated” from Georgia in 2008.

In spite of the support from foreigners, anyone who decides to fight on the Russian side should know the war isn’t going well for the Russian soldiers on the battlefield, either in Russian uniform or getting paid by the Wagner Group.

Here are 4 handy tips for veterans who decide to be mercenaries for Russia and fight in Ukraine (clearly this is satire):

1. Don’t fight with the prisoners. 

The Russian military is digging deep into its prison system to fill its ranks of frontline fighters. This means that volunteers are likely to end up in a unit of Russian prisoners. The convicts are promised redemption in exchange for their service, but few are likely to make it to the end of the war. They’re poorly-trained and do not have the same kind of discipline as a soldier. 

The poor training makes it highly likely that foreign volunteers fighting alongside the prisoners are going to be killed, wounded, or captured. These prisoners are experiencing a casualty rate of 77% as of December 2022, meaning 29,543 of the 38,244 Russian convict conscripts are killed, wounded, or captured. Probably all three.  

2. Memorize these phone numbers.

Seriously, write these down. The Intelligence director of Ukraine operates a hotline for Russian troops who don’t want to be fighting in the Russian invasion, and guarantees safe detention under the POW provisions of the Geneva Conventions. It’s called the “I Want To Live” Hotline. That’s not a joke, that’s what it’s called.

+38 066 580 34 98 

+38 093 119 29 84

Be advised that these numbers do not work if you’re in territory controlled by the Russian Federation, so you’ll either have to invade Ukraine first or call before you go. 

dangers for russian mercenaries in ukraine
Russian bombardment on the outskirts of Kharkiv.

3. Tell your family how to find you or your remains

Since the chances of getting unalived are so good for Russian troops and everyone fighting for them, the Ukrainian government has kindly created a website that allows Russian citizens to look for their loved ones who are lost, missing, wounded, captured, or outright killed during the invasion. 

So when you’re inevitably killed in action, your family will be able to look for you (or what’s left of you) via the Look For Your Own website or through the official Telegram channel. It might sound morbid, but it’s better than just trying to guess. 

4. You might want to bring your own body armor. And weapon.

Saying Russian troops aren’t well-equipped to be fighting a war would be an understatement. Both sides of the war are using decades-old (and even a century old!) weapons to kill the other side, but while Ukraine might be using a Maxim machine gun, they at least have the bullets for them. 

As for armor, Russia is supposed to have new, advanced body armor but most are being issued fake replicas that do not work. Others are getting “new” vests, but show wear and tear, specifically the tear that comes with a bullet tearing through them. It’s better to bring your own, they might force you to anyway.