Captured Russian officer Starkov explained how and how many Russian soldiers get recruited to fight in Ukraine. Full transcript of the video.

Russian officer Starkov

Russian officer Starkov

Security Service of Ukraine posted a video of interrogation of the Russian officer Starkov who was captured by the Border Guard Service of Ukraine on July 25 at Ukrainian checkpoint. See Russian army officer captured on Ukrainian checkpoint near Donetsk with a truck full of ammo. Starkov explained the process of how he was recruited to continue his service in Donetsk and confirmed that there are about 2,000-3,000 regular Russian army soldiers on the territory of Lugansk and Donetsk Regions who coordinate pro-Russian rebels military forces on all levels. As soon as Russian officers arrive to separatists controlled territory they get docs on fake names and don’t have anything with them that can identify them as Russian army soldiers. After he was captured his family in Russia disappeared and phones got blocked.

Below you can see the video of his interrogation and the transcript in English.

Ukrainian officer: Do you remember any of your passport data?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, sure, I remember.

Ukrainian officer: Tell me.

Russian Maj. Starkov: Passport series 2203 and number 080912, issued on December 9 2002, by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Bor city in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.

Russian Maj. Starkov: Every commander in a brigade has… there is local head and he has Russian adviser. 

Ukrainian officer: Who makes decisions and who gives orders?

Russian Maj. Starkov: In general, locals do. Initially, we didn’t sign any document, we make locals to sign everything, we say you are in charge here, so you sign it, I just advise you how to do it.

Ukrainian officer: And only commander of brigade or some higher ranked commander? What kind of units hierarchy.

Russian Maj. Starkov: Battalion, Division… there are advisers… there are 3 advisers… So there is Commander of Battalion, Chief of Staff and Deputy Head Commander for weapons. So there are 3 officers in each Division, each Battalion they are present there.

Ukrainian officer: Guys who arrive from Russian Federation are they volunteers? You say and we know it is by order. There is an order and you go like on a business trip?

Russian Maj. Starkov: They don’t go like on a business trip, they don’t get paid daily for that. You get official position in 12th Command in Novocherkassk city (military unit created in 2014 as part of Southern Military District the Commander of 12th Command is Col. Bakhtiyar Nabiyev since July 25, 2014, see You get assigned to certain military unit. And when you arrive there, they tell it to you as a fact, that you are not going to serve in Novocherkassk and that you will continue your service in Lugansk People’s Republic or in Donetsk People’s Republic.

Ukrainian officer: So they tell that to you as a fact?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, before that they don’t tell us anything, and everything that is related to Ukraine is seriously top secret.

Ukrainian officer: And what is the motivation? Money? Or you are able not to obey the order?

Russian Maj. Starkov: 1st when they recruit people there everybody have their own circumstances. My situation was like this. For 12 years I have been serving in Taiga where there were only 4 houses, a school and a kindergarten… The closest village was 7 km away, a town was 45 km away, big city was 90 km away.

Ukrainian officer: There are only 15-16 buildings in that village where you were?

Russian Maj. Starkov: There are 4 5-storey houses…

Ukrainian officer: Go on…

Russian Maj. Starkov: I was applying many times to get transferred. They were telling me stay, how we can do without you, you can’t leave, just stay for another year… And recently I got a phone call and say that they are looking for a candidate on a position of the head of R.A.W. supply service. (R.A.W. is abbreviation of Rocket and Artillery Weapon – in Russian it is “Р.А.В.”). I asked them where? They told me to Novocherkassk city, Southern Military District. I said I agree. Seriously? They say yes sure! I said you were rejecting me so many times and here you are looking for a candidate, sure I will go there.  

Ukrainian officer: Who called you, your commander?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, that was the Head of HR. So he said, OK, write a report. I wrote the report and sent it by fax… and after to months I got an order that I am assigned to 12th Command in Novocherkassk city.

Ukrainian officer: And what it means “12th Command”?

Russian Maj. Starkov: This is Reserved Command created in Novocherkassk that control…. 

Ukrainian officer: That covers Ukraine?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes…

Ukrainian officer: How many Commands like that are there around Russia?

Russian Maj. Starkov: I don’t know.

Ukrainian officer: Did you go alone or with the family?

Russian Maj. Starkov: I was going alone.

Ukrainian officer: Alone…

Ukrainian officer: Have you been promised that later you will be able to bring your family there?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, nobody promised that.

Ukrainian officer: And when did you arrive to Novocherkassk?

Russian Maj. Starkov: March 3.

Ukrainian officer: 2015?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: So you arrived there and went to the next destination?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, same day we got instructions, all day there were telling us different stuff, frightening us. In the evening they got us together and were saying like ‘you are going to that unit and you are going to that unit’ 

Ukrainian officer: What was the rank of the person who was telling you that? Who was commanding you, who was giving you instructions?

Russian Maj. Starkov: We were instructed by the head of HR, his rank was Colonel, the Chief of State Secrets Protection service and somebody from FSB (Federal Security Service)…

Ukrainian officer: Do you remember the last name of that Colonel?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Nobody was telling us their last names…

Ukrainian officer: But they were in the uniform?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, in uniform.

Ukrainian officer: And what insignia they had? 

Russian Maj. Starkov: Insignia of the 12th Command.

Ukrainian officer: Insignia of what type of troops? Construction battalion, artillery? You said there was a Colonel. What type of troops?

Russian Maj. Starkov: He has his rank marked on his shoulder straps… but can’t say exactly now what kind of troops.

Ukrainian officer: You are Major Officer.

Russian Maj. Starkov: There were crosses on his chevrons of 12th Command.

Ukrainian officer: That is some kind of cross?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: And as for lieutenant Colonels you don’t remember?

Russian Maj. Starkov: One was from marine Corps in black uniform.

Ukrainian officer: And were there people who refused to go?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, there were 3 men who refused. Immediately commander started to bully them saying like ‘you graduated from military school, what for do you wear officers shoulder straps and now you refuse to obey the order… do you refuse to obey the order of the Minister of Defense’. They said ‘no we will not, we will not go’. They were taken away immediately. They didn’t go with us. And I don’t know what happened to them after that. More likely they were simply fired.

Ukrainian officer: And who were they? Do you know their names?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, nobody knows anyone there. Because they take 1 man from different units in order they don’t know each other…

Ukrainian officer: Do you distinguish somehow citizens of Russian Federation among locals? You see each other anyway? Tell us how you distinguish them.

Russian Maj. Starkov: 1st of all mentality, how they communicate. If he is an officer you see he’s an officer, he’s always shaved very clean, the uniform is clean and ironed, his boots are polished. If this was your daily routine for years, that can’t be taken away from you.

Ukrainian officer: Did you see a lot of men like that, your colleagues?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: And what do you think there are many Russians who are serving there?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Sure there are a lot of them there. I think if you take all together Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic, that would be about 2-3 thousands.

Ukrainian officer: What is the structure of command in DPR-LPR? What do you know? You are not a simple officer,  you are Major officer. You were communicating with others, going to the trips for ammunition.

Russian Maj. Starkov: You can describe the structure like this: the Chief of the Corps is Russian General.

Ukrainian officer: The Chief of what?

Russian Maj. Starkov: The Chief of the Corps. This is the Army Corps, this is in DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic).

Ukrainian officer: What is the last name of the Chief?

Russian Maj. Starkov: I don’t know that.

Ukrainian officer: So you think that is Russian General?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, we know and everybody that is Russian General. And what his name or callsign is I don’t know. Because we didn’t have access there, we only had access to our service and in order to get there you would need to apply for special pass.

Ukrainian officer: And the pass that you had that was only for access to your unit?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, only to my unit. And who I was meeting, the highest rank was Deputy Chief for ammunition, that is the Deputy of the Commander.

Ukrainian officer: And what was his rank?

Russian Maj. Starkov: He is lieutenant Colonel.

Ukrainian officer: Russian?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes. Russian lieutenant Colonel. I told you his last name already. Ryshkovich.

Ukrainian officer: Ryshkovich?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: And how ammunition gets there? Ah, you already told us, from there…

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes.

Ukrainian officer: So there is Chief of the Corps who is Russian General and he has Deputies.

Russian Maj. Starkov: He has Deputies, Deputies have different services… and brigade… the services of brigade are under services of the Corps. The system is like that.

Ukrainian officer: The commander of your brigade who is he? What do you know about him?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Local, Colonel Tikhonov, full name Tikhonov Mikhail Gennadiyevich, callsign ‘Tikhon’.

Ukrainian officer: And what is the main task. What your brigade is responsible for? What is its name?

Russian Maj. Starkov: 5th separate local Infantry Brigade, military unit #08805

Ukrainian officer: What is in there? What kind of weapon, how many men? About 500 right?

Russian Maj. Starkov: No, there are 2497 men. And all of them are divided into units. There is management, command, services.  

Ukrainian officer: What was your position?

Russian Maj. Starkov: I was on a position of the head of R.A.W. supply service. (R.A.W. is abbreviation of Rocket and Artillery Weapon – in Russian it is “Р.А.В.”)

Ukrainian officer: Of all that brigade?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes. My task was to keep records of all weapon that brigade had, control how it is given to men, transferred, write-off, control ammunition, keep records of rockets, ATGM, because there were no records before that. Everything was given here and there without control.

Ukrainian officer: What was the procedure of changing your name? I see that all your colleagues are not under their real names. Was that an order from the command? Tell us about that.

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes. The procedure of changing name was like that. When we arrived to the brigade, we got accommodated, in the evening we had a meeting where we were given application forms to put full name and callsign. They said we had to fill that with fake names as a cover.

Ukrainian officer: For your legend?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, because we are not here. And such person doesn’t exist. Because we are advisers we don’t sign documents, so we had to do so.

Ukrainian officer: You know about 2 GRU soldiers who were detained before?

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, I saw them in the news.

Ukrainian officer: Yes, we have them safe according to witness protection program. Have you heard news about them? Do you know that…

Russian Maj. Starkov: Yes, they were refused, same with me.

Ukrainian officer: What are your feelings about that?

Russian Maj. Starkov: How… the country doesn’t need me… I will not be exchanged… 2 days ago my family was taken away and nobody knows where, there is no way to get in touch with them now.

Ukrainian officer: How do you know that?

Russian Maj. Starkov: We were trying to call them on the phone, all phone numbers are blocked, of all my relatives. I called to a friend of mine. My family was on vacation now. I called to my friend who lived nearby where they were, he went there and there was nobody home. I called him later and asked to go back in the morning. He went there in the morning again and the neighbors told him that they left 2 days ago. And nobody knows where they went, my wife, her mother and my children. Where they went I don’t know and why they left… They had tickets for August 1 or 2 to go back home where they live.

Ukrainian officer: If you had a chance to address to your colleagues, friends, your fellow soldiers, address to those who service here and came from Russia, what would you tell them? 

Russian Maj. Starkov: Well… I said already. It’s not worth coming here. Not worth a tinker’s damn. They lie to us, they make money on us. 12th Command gets ranks and just want to keep their positions, it’s a total fraud. 12th Command comes here just for few days, they get daily payments for that and medals of Kutuzov and Zhukov. And we just stay here as meat. We don’t do anything, everybody put pressure on us here and want something from us. And it’s not clear who we train and what we teach them. If your eyes would open, everything would be completely different. If I knew the situation here before, I would never come here. Search for any way in order not to get here.

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