Student released from pro-Russian forces had to share food and sleeping bag, he says

STAROBESHEVE, Russian-controlled Ukraine, Nov 28 (Reuters) - A student newly discharged from Russian proxy forces in Ukraine says he was equipped with a Soviet-era bolt-action rifle, and had to share rations and a sleeping bag when first sent to the front.

"When times were hard, we had a certain number of people and there weren't enough sleeping bags for everyone, you could only cover yourself with a raincoat. We were able to get two or three people into a sleeping bag to keep warm," said Vladimir, a young man who appeared to be in his late teens.

"At first we didn't have enough food. After that, everything was fine with supplies, they were completely sufficient, but at first we shared with each other. Helping each other, that was the only way," he told reporters.

He said he had, like many others, been given a Mosin sniper rifle - a bolt-action weapon designed in Tsarist Russia in the late 19th century and updated in the 1930s.

Reports of young men being sent to fight in Ukraine with inadequate clothing and equipment have stirred deep public concern in Russia, prompting President Vladimir Putin to order better coordination between government, regions and industry to meet the needs of the military.

Putin ordered a "partial mobilisation" in Russia in September, but Moscow's proxies in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine began calling up men of fighting age much earlier.

Vladimir said he had been drafted into the forces of the breakaway Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) on Feb. 23, the day before Putin sent his forces into Ukraine.

On Monday, he was among dozens of young men who were demobilised at a ceremony in the town of Starobesheve, in line with an order from Putin this month that students should end their service and return to their studies.

(This story has been corrected to remove reference in the headline to the student being Russian)

Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Andrew Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.