By Stefan Korshak.
Published Sept. 6 at 6:00 pm
Disillusionment, despair, incompetent officers, and ways to avoid actually fighting in Ukraine by any means possible are topics dominating the conversations of Russian soldiers with family members in recent weeks, a Kyiv Post review of 25 intercepted telephone calls has shown.
Kyiv Post reviewed the audio of conversations intercepted by Ukraine’s Chief Directorate for Reconnaissance (CDR) of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, and published from July 23 through September 6. The agency has made public more than 150 intercepts since the start of the war.
Kyiv Post was not able to independently confirm the CDR claim the intercepts are authentic. However, language used – often vulgar – was typical for Russian soldiers. Topics and problems discussed were consistent with Russian army shortcomings observed in the war by multiple independent sources, including Kyiv Post reporters in the field.
Over the two-week period that was reviewed, Russian soldiers repeatedly complained of weak supply to front line units and crippling casualties. Typical was a RF soldier comment published on September 4. After telling a female relative he will quit the army as soon as possible, he described ragamuffin replacements now being sent to the front:
“The young guys going into the line, they don’t have clothes, they don’t have sleeping bags, they don’t have f*cking anything. Can you imagine the kind of kids they sent? F*cking scarecrows!… They’re (the RF army) taking dirty uniforms, they’re washing out (dirt and the blood), and then they’re dressing these new guys. They’re like a bunch of f*cking homeless. They’ve got rifles from 1976, from 1978, those things don’t even shoot straight… and they’re getting sent straight to the front line. And how are you supposed to stop a tank with a rifle? No anti-tank rockets, nothing!”
A front line soldier in an August 30 conversation described close-in fighting in the Kharkiv sector: “We don’t have anything left. Not water, not food, no f*cking thing. We basically have no links to the outside. We’re absolutely f*ucked, that’s the way it is… 7th company got absolutely d*cked… the battalion commander ran the f*ck away, the mother*cker.”
A soldier in the southern Kherson sector contradicted the Kremlin narrative that Russian supplies were reaching the city of Kherson via bridges across the Dnipro River. In a conversation made public on August 30, the RF soldier tells his wife: “The bridges (over the Dnipro) are all f*cking screwed, now nothing comes in, nothing is going out…all leave is cancelled and all troop movements are zero.”
In response to his wife’s comment that RF state television just reported that the bridges had been repaired, the soldier erupts: “It’s (the Antonovsky Bridge across the Dnipro River) finished…nobody fixed anything. It’s been blown in half and it f*cking fell into the river.”
One RF soldier, in the Donetsk sector, in a September 2 call told his wife about recent combat.
“They f*cking crucified us, f*ckers, f*cking mortars, where I’m calling from, there’s nothing left. There’s a great big ditch, that’s all, nothing f*cking left besides that,” the soldier said.
“Are you drunk?”, the wife asks.
“Me? Yes! And what else am I supposed to do, I’m f*cked, today I got f*cked up, I’m f*cking drunk!”
“I noticed,” she replied.
Russian soldiers repeatedly discussed with family members ways to avoid combat. Common tactics included malingering, faking sickness, and breaking the contract signed with the Russian army.
In a series of conversations over the period of July 27-30, enlisted soldier Evgeniy Balchugov, identified as a member of an artillery section in Russia’s 11th Separate Guards Airborne Assault Brigade, told his parents his unit wasn’t even receiving combat pay, because on paper the brigade was still in Russia. He said his battery, currently stationed in the village of Bila Krynytsya, Kherson sector, has lost half its members to UAF shelling.
Asked by his mother, incredulous that the Kremlin would lie about an infantry entire brigade being in combat, what she might do, Balchugov said: “OK, well, you can call Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin), and you can get together everyone, all 10, 000 people (related brigade members), all the wives and mothers, and you can write a complaint, then you can ask, how come our 10,000 soldiers are on paper in Russia, but in reality they’re f*cking getting f*cked in Ukraine.” Balchugov told his mother he intended to desert, and travel back to Ulan-Ude, Buryatiya.
Other Russian soldiers spoke of flatly refusing to fight, and by some measures preparing to mutiny. One in a September 2 recording said: “On the 15th, in our unit, the officers and contracted soldiers, they’re going to get together, they’re going to go to (the senior commander) Zavatsky and lay down their arms. They’re going to refuse to fight any more. After the 15th. They’re not going to do anything. All of the infantry, it looks like to me, they couldn’t give a sh*t any more about anything.”
A Ukrainian resident of Donetsk Region serving with RF forces told his wife in a Tuesday, September 6, phone call: “We went to him (the senior commander) today and said: ‘The f*ck we need your sh*tty money, let us go home.’ And he sort of hints that if we lay down our weapons then we’re in trouble, and we say we aren’t going to do that, because that would be desertion, that’s prison. But we’ll go home. Because a half a year has gone by, all of it on the front line.”
Frustration with leaders was common. One soldier serving in the 7th company of a front line unit in the village of Komyshuvakha in Kharkiv Region, was mad enough to consider mutiny: “You f*cking can’t see a thing, at night we sit on the line without f*cking (night vision) sights. And this captain has three (night vision) sights (he keeps for himself), the f*cking pr*ck…we just need to f*cking knock off these b*stards (bad commanders), this f*cking commander…he walks around drunk, in short, and tells tales what an outstanding type he is, the f*cker, like he shot up those guys over there, and he f*cking sh*ts in his pants and runs the f*ck away…with the tanks…so now we don’t have f*cking anything to fight with here.”