1 February 2024

Civilian losses. 23 workers from St. Petersburg died in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Here’s the story of Dmitry, a road worker who didn’t get to see his son

In October 2022, the Russian authorities began to restore infrastructure in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Since then, the war has claimed new victims—road workers from various regions of Russia.

According to authorities, 23 employees of St. Petersburg-based companies have died in the so-called “new territories”. There is no information on how many people were sent there in total, from which companies, and who exactly died.

Paper got to know the names of ten dead workers and the story of one of them, Dmitry Chuprov. Find out why a non-enlisted man went to the combat zone, how his employer reacted to his death, and what is known about other victims.

Dmitry Chuprov. Photo: VK

What is known about the dead workers

In early May 2023, a resident of the village of Okunev Nos in the Komi Republic, Diana, gave birth to her first child — a son named Bogdan. On the night of May 31, Bogdan lost his father.

“I remember waking up in the morning. My parents were watching the news, where they were talking about these events [the shelling of the base where the workers were located].”

The father of the boy, 31-year-old Dmitry Chuprov, was building roads near the front line.

“Just the day before, I talked to Dima [diminutive of Dmitry] on the phone, he was joyful,” Diana recalls.

“I started calling Dima, but he didn’t answer, and I started to worry. Then one of the foremen answered and told me that such a situation had happened [that Dmitry had died].”

Dmitry was one of five workers who died that night under shelling. They were working in the village of Karpaty in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk under Russian control, repairing roads and, according to officials, possibly building military fortifications. Another 19 people were injured in the shelling, wrote the head of the Bolsheselsky district of the Yaroslavl region, Vladimir Lubenin. Nothing more is known about them.

According to Lubenin, shells from the M142 HIMARS multiple rocket launcher hit the area where the workers’ barracks were located.

Damage to construction equipment after shelling in the village of Karpaty. Photo: Representation of the LPR in the SCCK / Telegram

This time, the barracks weren’t moved to a safer place for the night, as they had done before, Diana recounts her colleagues’ version of events. “They told me that Dima died in his sleep. His death certificate stated that he died from multiple ballistic wounds all over his body and a direct hit to the head,” the young woman cries. Relatives of other deceased workers refused to talk to Paper.

Neither the authorities nor the employers have reported on how many workers from Russia were sent to the occupied territories and how many died there. Alexander Belsky, the chairman of St. Petersburg regional parliament, stated on December 5, 2023, that since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, 23 residents of the city from the road construction industry had died. He did not disclose their names.

Paper identified the names of ten deceased road workers based on the president’s decrees on posthumous awards of the Order of Courage from January to July 2023. Next to their names in the documents, St. Petersburg is indicated as their employers’ place of registration, but at least two men lived in other regions—like Dmitry Chuprov from Komi Republic.

Little is known about these people: what they did for a living, when and under what circumstances they died.

About the other 13 deceased residents of St. Petersburg, whom Belsky may have referred to, not even their names are known. They were not awarded posthumously, their deaths were not reported in the media or on the websites of the companies where the awarded workers were employed.

Relatives of ten posthumous recipients of the Order of Courage were awarded by Governor Beglov in St. Petersburg in June and December 2023. “These guys did everything possible to ensure our victory. They created defensive structures that today protect our homeland,” said the governor.

Why did Dmitry Chuprov go to the front

Dmitry only managed to see his son Bogdan through videos. Shortly before his birth, Dmitry went to the occupied territory of Luhansk Oblast, planning to return in the summer.

“When he found out that I was pregnant, he decided to take on extra shifts to earn money for an apartment. Of course, I was worried and asked him to stay with me. But he decided to go. Dima never feared hard work. He didn’t want his child to need anything,” explains Diana. “Dima and I had big plans—we wanted to get married. I miss him very much. But what can you do when there’s a war, and so many people are dying. They weren’t fighting, they were building and rebuilding—it’s unfair.”

Four acquaintances of the deceased, whom Paper spoke to, describe him as a “brave and always ready to help” man.

The director of the company where Chuprov worked until 2022, Valentin Shvets from Komi Republic, provided Paper with correspondence between his son and Dmitry—the men were friends. In it, Dmitry explains his departure by saying that there were no jobs at other sites at the time.

Messages from Dmitry to a friend

May 6, 2023

“I’m employed here, and I need this job, and it just so happened that they [Leader Group company] have taken projects here for the next few years. There’s not much of a choice <…>.

“I’ve arrived, I’m working full blast, I’m in Luhansk, not far from the city. The line of contact with the enemy is nearby. They’re shelling—it barely misses us, but you can see the smoke and hear the explosions. I didn’t think I’d be this close—50 kilometers away [from the combat zone].”

In response to a friend’s request to borrow money, Dmitry wrote that he was broke. According to him, his accounts had been frozen due to debts. Diana told Paper that Dmitry had debts for utilities because he was constantly away working on shifts. She didn’t know about any other debts.

Who hired workers for construction in the occupied regions

The workers who died, whose names Paper managed to identify, went to work in the occupied territories for various companies from St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast. The total number of them is unknown. The names of five of these companies are listed in the presidential decrees on posthumously awarding workers with the Order of Courage:

  • Severnaya Nerudnaya Kompania from Leningrad Oblast—workers Igor Sklyarov and Vladimir Chekalin died;
  • ABZ Dorstroy—Anatoly Gerst and Mikhail Utkin;
  • Asfaltobetonny Zavod №1—Zakar Khachatryan;
  • Leader Group—Oleg Buzoev, Nikolay Kasyan, Nikolay Marchenko, and Dmitry Chuprov;
  • StroyLux—Ruslan Vinogradov.

In 2022, almost all of these companies showed a sharp increase in revenue, according to data from Rusprofile. The largest growth, 2844%, was shown by Severnaya Nerudnaya Kompania. Paper was unable to find financial information about only one company—StroyLux.

Judging by the absence of information on the government procurement website, none of the companies executed orders directly from the state authorities. The businesses presumably entered into contracts with the state-owned company Avtodor. Its chairman of the board, Vyacheslav Petushenko, was present at the ceremony of awarding orders to the relatives of the deceased and spoke about the work of Avtodor and its subcontracting organizations in the so-called “new regions”.

As for Leader Group, where Dmitry Chuprov and at least three other deceased individuals were employed, it is engaged in personnel outsourcing, particularly of labor migrants whom companies prefer not to formally employ. Because of this, it is unknown for which particular companies the employees were working in the occupied territories.

None of the five employers have spoken about the deceased on their websites or social media. The companies also did not respond to requests from Paper regarding the conditions under which workers were sent to occupied territories and whether their relatives will receive any assistance. After Paper’s request, Leader Group closed all the pages on its website except for the homepage (however, as Paper verified using the Wayback Machine service, there was no information about trips to the conflict zone).


“They [employers] understood that they were sending them [the workers] to war. They worked where there was active fighting. At the same time, their salary, I wouldn’t say it was big.They received about 20,000 rubles ‘on the books’ and about 80,000 rubles ‘off the books’ per month. And they made no payments after their deaths. It’s somehow wrong.”

According to Diana, Leader Group did not contact her family or offer condolences.

What assistance did the families of the deceased receive

Relatives of road workers awarded Orders of Courage receive one-time payments—just like in the case of military personnel—equivalent to five times the deceased’s salary. These payments should be made within seven months of the award decree. Dmitry’s brothers received the order for him, Diana says. Since they did not register marriage with Dmitry, the woman cannot claim the award payments as his wife. Their son Bogdan was granted a pension for the loss of the breadwinner.


“Payments were supposed to be made, but so far there have been none. There will also be insurance payments, which the employer arranged. I submitted all the applications and am still waiting. But these are all payments from the government; the company did not provide any assistance.”

Whether the families of other deceased workers received financial assistance from companies and payments from the government is unknown.

The families of the workers received support from neighbors in their communities. Dozens of villagers from Okunev Nos attended Dmitry Chuprov’s funeral. A local community page wrote that they “express their condolences to his wife, son, brothers Konstantin and Danila, as well as all relatives and loved ones.” The post received 58 comments expressing support for Dmitry’s relatives.

Dozens of people also attended the funeral of Anatoly Gerst, the chief mechanic of ABZ Dorstroy. His friend, Sergei Vydrenko, the head of the Petrodvorets public organization for Afghanistan war veterans—published a photo from the ceremony.

Funeral of the deceased chief mechanic Anatoly Gerst of ABZ Dorstroy. Photo: PMK Typhoon / VK

Sergei Vydrenko

post on VK page of the deceased road worker’s friend

“We express our condolences and mourn together with Anatoly’s wife, son, daughters, parents, and grandson. Anatoly was only 47 years old! May his memory be bright and eternal in our hearts! May God curse the American, European, and Ukrainian politicians who revived Nazism, prepared and unleashed this war against Russia on the territory of our state! Eventually, they will be held accountable for everything they’ve done! After our victory over this global evil that they bring upon us.”

In October 2023, a memorial was erected in Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast, to honor the deceased workers from Russia. Neither the names nor the numbers of the “road worker heroes” are inscribed on it.

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