The New York Times Reveals Details of Russian Soldiers’ Appeals | Russo-Ukrainian War

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Thousands of intercepted calls made by Russian soldiers in Ukraine and obtained by the New York Times (NYT) newspaper appear to reveal new evidence of widespread atrocities committed by Moscow forces and anger within their ranks over the decision to invasion of President Vladimir Putin.

The calls, outlined in a new report published Thursday, were made in March by dozens of soldiers stationed in and around the town of Bucha, on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv.

“Mom, this war is the dumbest decision our government has ever made, I think,” the NYT quoted a soldier named Sergey told his mother.

Using 22 shared phones, soldiers called hundreds of phone numbers in Russia over a period of weeks, calling their wives, relatives and friends, despite being ordered not to. .

Their conversations, initially intercepted by Ukrainian law enforcement before being passed on to the newspaper, shed new light on the disarray of the early stages of the Russian offensive and refer to killings of civilians as evidence of crimes of war.

Soldiers report being thrown into war without warning, suffering mounting casualties as their bid to seize Kyiv fails and ordered to ‘kill everyone we see’.

One of them outright denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “fool” for ordering the invasion.

“The coffins keep coming”

Calls indicate that within weeks of the start of the offensive on February 24, Russian forces were suffering heavy casualties. In the ranks, the awareness that the capture of the Ukrainian capital would prove impossible also seems to have taken hold.

The NYT, which only published the soldiers’ first names to protect their identities, quoted Sergey telling his mother that only 38 of a group of 400 paratroopers deployed from Moscow survived. Other soldiers said they had lost up to 60% of their regiment, while relatives in Russia warned that “the coffins keep coming”.

“We are burying one man after another, it’s a nightmare,” a soldier’s unnamed partner told him.

Orders to execute civilians

In other conversations, troops laid out orders given by commanders in Bucha, where Russian forces are accused by Kyiv of committing a litany of war crimes, including the execution of hundreds of civilians. Moscow denies the allegations.

“They told us that where we are going there are a lot of civilians walking around. And they gave us the order to kill everyone we see,” Sergey said during a call with his girlfriend.

The conversations also reveal that the soldiers soon began to report an increasing number of deaths among their forces.

Aleksandr is quoted as telling a relative that there are “bodies lying on the road” in Bucha with “scattered limbs”.

“It’s not ours, it’s fucking civilians,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sergey told his mother that there was a “mountain of corpses in the forest”. In a call to his girlfriend, he also confessed to being ordered to execute three men who “passed by our warehouse”.

“We detained them, stripped them naked and checked all their clothes. Then we had to decide whether to let them go. If we let them go, they might reveal our position… So it was decided to shoot them,” Sergey said.

“War based on false pretenses”

As the march progressed – and ahead of a possible Russian withdrawal from the vicinity of Kyiv – disillusionment seemed to grow among the troops.

Some complained of deadly tactical failures, a lack of rations and harsh winter conditions. Others suggested they were considering deserting, but feared prosecution in Russia if they did.

“Putin is a fool. He wants to take Kyiv. But there is no way to do it,” Aleksandr said.

Some troops also disputed Russian media reports of the war they had been fed during their conversations, which suggested that Moscow’s offensive was a justified move to rid Ukraine of “Nazis” and was proceeding as intended.

“Mom, we haven’t seen a single fascist here… The war is based on pretense,” Sergey said. “Nobody needed it. We arrived here and people were leading normal lives. Very good, as in Russia. And now they have to live in basements.

“It’s not our problem”

But despite the reproaches, the high salaries – which soldiers say amount to $53 a day, a figure that dwarfs the average national wage – seemed to motivate many troops to keep fighting.

“I’m fed up with this contract. On the other hand, where can I earn so much money? Aleksandr reportedly told his partner.

At the end of March, several soldiers made phone calls to share the latest news: they had withdrawn to Belarus.

“We just crossed the border,” Aleksandr said when calling his mother. She expressed relief but wondered when the war would end for good.

“Well, that’s not our problem anymore,” he replied.

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