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The desperate Russian soldiers calling Ukraine's hotline for advice on how to surrender

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 30/11/2022 Verity Bowman
Captured Russian service personnel - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY © RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY Captured Russian service personnel - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY

Desperate Russian soldiers are ringing up a Ukrainian "I want to live" hotline to ask for advice on how to surrender. 

Up to 100 people a day are using the 24-hour scheme, a total that has increased since the city of Kherson was liberated. 

One soldier asked if he should “drop to his knees” when facing Ukrainian forces, according to the BBC, and said he did not “understand exactly” how to surrender. 

Most callers are usually male, but family members have also been in contact. 

"It's often part-desperate, part-frustrated because they don't fully understand how the hotline works, or whether it's just a set-up,” Svitlana, a Ukrainian call handler who speaks to Russian soldiers daily, told the BBC. 

"There's also curiosity because many call not to surrender but to find out how they could if needed. It's different every time."

On another occasion, a Russian said he wanted “to become a citizen of Ukraine” and for “all of this to end as soon as possible”. 

“I am from Moscow. I have not received a conscription ticket yet, but there were attempts to give it to me. Do you have any advice as to what I should do? I won’t kill Ukrainians. I want to save my life,” he said. 

The project is run by the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

"They save their lives, and fewer will be at the front," Vitaliy Matvienko, the project’s spokesman, said. 

People can get in touch via phone or messaging apps, including Telegram or Whatsapp. Svitlana said that evenings are the busiest times for calls. 

They are directed to share their location before being offered further advice. 

"Ask yourself a question - what are you fighting for?" says the ‘I want to live’ advertisement video.

Images of Russian soldiers surrendering are then shown before two phone numbers appear on the screen at the end. 

Russian prisoners of war can be used in future exchanges with captured Ukrainians. 

"We especially want to target the partially mobilised who not only can't fight but are thrown in as cannon fodder," Mr Matvienko said. 

"This project was created so their lives will be guaranteed if they surrender voluntarily."

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