This article was originally published in Russian by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta – here is a link to the original. novayagazeta.ru/society/65075.html
It was then translated into English and republished here:
Anton Tumanov, 20, was brought home to Kozmodemyansk (Mari El Republic, Russia) in a sealed coffin.
Chernova [Tumanov’s fiancee] called Tumanov every day and he told her more than he did his mother. It was on July 23 or 25 when he said for the first time: “We are going to war.” Frightened, Chernova only said: “But there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine, right?”
“We are going as insurgents,” he told the girl. After that, he was out of reach for three or four days.
The next time he went to Ukraine on Aug. 3 for two days. He didn’t reveal where exactly he was going and why. Chernova thinks he didn’t know that himself.
On Aug. 10 Tumanov called his mother and said his formation was sent to Donetsk. When talking to his fiancee, Tumanov added that he will stay in Ukraine for two or three months, probably till November, without a phone.
“Right before leaving he told me ‘I don’t want to go. We wanted to leave with the guys, but we are 1,500 kilometers away from our base.’ Maybe he was sensing something. In the last days he kept mentioning that we never married and he didn’t have children. It was in his plans and his dreams,” Chernova says.
On Aug. 11 Tumanov got two grenades and 150 machine gun cartridges. On 3 p.m. he sent his mother a message in Vkontakte social network saying: “Turned in my phone. Left for Ukraine.” That was all.
“I can’t understand how they could send them there. It was a big formation – 1,200 people. I didn’t even know who to call to. I didn’t have any of his commanders’ contacts. If I did, I would call and say: ‘Don’t you dare send him!’” Tumanova says.
Tumanov’s fellows from the military unit 27777 told the family what happened next, when they came to Kozmodemiyansk after the funeral to deliver the papers. They brought a notarized document detailing Tumanov’s death.
According to the servicemen, the order to cross the Ukrainian border came on Aug. 11. Those who refused were insulted and threatened by the commanders. They were ordered to turn in their phones and documents, change uniform and paint over number plates on their vehicles. Every soldier received thin white bands for their arms and legs.
Later Tumanova found in Vkontakte a photo of her son wearing such a band, with a comment by his fellow serviceman explaining that soldiers were moving the bands to a different arm or leg every day to signal to other squads that they are on the same side.
On the night of Aug. 12 a column of 1,200 soldiers entered Ukraine and arrived in Snizhne, a town 15 kilometers from the border. Later on that day the column was shelled by rockets from Grad launching systems.
“The boys told me that 120 men out of 1,200 died, and 450 were wounded. My Anton was at the front. No trenches or any protection. They panicked and tried to get out,” Tumanova says.