Ukraine’s hotline for surrendering Russian soldiers is getting 100 enquiries a day as the war between the two countries rages on. The hotline is part of the “I Want To Live” project that was started in September by Ukraine. It allows Russian soldiers to call or enter details through a messenger app, such as Telegram, so they can peacefully surrender to Ukrainian forces.
According to the BBC, Kyiv officials say the hotline has received more than 3,500 contacts from soldiers and their families since its commencement. The amount of calls per day has increased as Russian President Vladimir Putin mobilised hundreds of thousands of Russian men to fight in the war. A hotline operator by the name of Svitlana, says she receives more calls in the evening as soldiers have more time to sneak off and make the call.
She says the voices on the other end of the calls are usually full of desperation and frustration as they don’t seem to understand how the hotline works.
“There’s also a curiosity because many call not to surrender, but to find out how they could if needed. It’s different every time.”
Svitlana says that some Russian soldiers call just to provoke hotline operators, but says she doesn’t think they all believe the Kremlin’s claims that Ukraine is run by Nazis.
“We can’t judge an entire country. The majority of them are worried about their lives.”
Moscow has reportedly blocked the phone numbers from being reached inside Russia. Such calls from either the UK or Russian sim card are answered with an error message.
Vitalii Matviyenko, the leader of the project, says it was created to help save the lives of those who surrender. He says the project guarantees that the soldiers will live if they voluntarily surrender. Such prisoners of war may be used as currency in future exchanges between the countries as there are allegedly thousands of pows on each side. The Institute for the Study of War notes that Russia has been carrying out more pow exchanges as it tries to soothe critics from inside the country.
Although hotline operators aren’t allowed to divulge how many callers are exactly calling in per day, the estimated amount is around 100, but that number could be higher.