Cold-calling Siberia

Sasha Koltun volunteered to fight in Putin's war against Ukraine, though his mother Yelena begged him not to go. Four days later, he was dead, one of several dozen new recruits from across Russia who never even reached the battlefield. What happened to him - and will his mother, battling official indifference and obstruction, ever discover the truth?

With the Kremlin currently restricting access to Russia for Western reporters, Tim Whewell picks up the phone to talk to her and other people in and around the city of Bratsk, in central Siberia, about how the war has affected them. Many are afraid to talk. But others describe their anxiety as they wave goodbye to their menfolk, their confused feelings about the war - a mixture of patriotism and doubt - and the chaotic organisation of the call up. Some recruits have had to buy their own uniform and equipment. Others have suffered as discipline breaks down at some training camps.

Tim talks to a former policewoman determined to encourage support for the war, who makes stretchers for wounded Russian soldiers - and to a young woman who believes it was her boyfriend's duty to be a soldier. But Yelena Koltun - who lost her son Sasha - cannot understand what her country is fighting for.

Presented and produced by Tim Whewell, with additional production by Khristina Stolyarova.
Studio mix by Graham Puddifoot
Series editor Penny Murphy