Misbehaving Russian troops were tossed in 'pits' at military training grounds for up to a week at a time, a deserted soldier says

Russian troops conscripts Omsk
A Russian serviceman adjusts the uniform of a conscript at a gathering point in Omsk on November 10, 2022.REUTERS/Alexey Malgavko
  • So-called "torture pits" were dug at Russian military training grounds to punish troops, a report said.

  • A former soldier told Important Stories and the Conflict Intelligence Team that misbehaving troops were put in pits for up to a week.

  • "People who came back from there didn't mess around anymore," the ex-soldier said, according to the report.

So-called "torture pits" in the ground allegedly exist at two Russian military training grounds to punish rule-breaking troops, according to a report by independent Russian news outlet Important Stories and the Conflict Intelligence Team, an open-source investigative group.

The investigative report, published on Tuesday, cites ex-trainees at the Prudboy military training camp in the Volgograd Oblast and the Totsky military training ground in the Orenburg Oblast.

The Russian government did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on the report on Wednesday.

A deserted soldier who trained at Prudboy this year and was identified in the report by the pseudonym "Sergei" told IStories and CIT that he knew of several misbehaving soldiers — mostly those who were in trouble for drinking alcohol — who were put in the pits.

They were beaten by military police, kept in the pits for up to a week, and had food brought to them only once a day, Sergei said, who noted that he saw two pits at Prudboy, according to the report.

"People who came back from there didn't mess around anymore, they were afraid of everything," said Sergei, according to the report.

The report added that satellite imagery, which it published, confirmed the existence of the alleged pits. The images show two dark holes in the earth not far from the training grounds that were dug between April and August 2023.

The former soldier told IStories and CIT that one recruit died at the training ground after he was put in a pit. IStories and CIT said it could not independently verify this incident.

Sergei arrived at the training ground in June and when he got there he said, "I saw what a mess was going on around me: classes were held for show, phones were seized, and those who were outraged were put in the 'pits' together with alcoholics and junkies, and I decided to run away."

The report said that Sergei not only left the Prudboy training ground, but also the country. He says he tried multiple times to quit, but that commanders threatened violence and threatened to put him in a pit without food or water.

Another former soldier by the pseudonym Viktor who was at the Totsky military training ground this year said that the "most rowdy" troops were threatened to be "sent in the pit" there, but that he never saw the alleged holes.

British intelligence said in May of this year that Russian military commanders were disciplining soldiers by imprisoning them in holes in the ground covered by metal grilles.

Those pits, called "zindans," were being used to detain soldiers for misdemeanors, including drunkenness and attempting to terminate their contracts, the UK's Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update at the time.

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