Russian fighters are starting to plead with their parents to send them money so they can buy better protective gear than the equipment Russian President Vladimir Putin has provided his military for the war in Ukraine, according to calls intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence.
“How much do you need?,” one soldier’s mother asked, according to one tapped call, which was shared by Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) this week. “And what kind of equipment…? And you have to buy that with your own money?”
“Body armor,” the soldier replied. “It’s just that what we have now is terrible.”
The Russian government has been lambasted in recent weeks for failing to provide adequate protective gear for its soldiers, even though it prepared its troops and equipment along the border of Ukraine for eventual war for months. Just last month, Russian troops took to social media to share images of Russian first-aid kits side-by-side with Ukrainian first-aid kits to demonstrate just how poorly prepared the Russian forces were for war, pleading for donations for the Russian forces.
The intercepted call is just the latest incident indicating that Russian troops have begun to realize that Moscow sent them to Ukraine only to be left high and dry, fighting for their lives and fed up.
Russian troops have been struggling with morale, a senior U.S. defense official said this week.
“We still see anecdotal reports of poor morale of troops, indeed officers, refusing to obey orders and move and not really sound command and control from a leadership perspective,” the official said on a call with reporters Monday.
Soldiers have started referring to the Ukrainian town of Chornobaivka as “purgatory” for military equipment, according to another phone call between Russian fighters the SBU intercepted.
It’s the 78th day of war in Ukraine, and the lack of investment in Russians’ protective gear and low morale is starting to show: Russian forces have lost 26,650 in combat already, according to an assessment the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine shared Thursday.
Russia’s military has also lost 1195 tanks, 2873 armored vehicles, 534 artillery systems, 87 anti-aircraft systems, 199 aircraft, 161 helicopters, and 13 military boats, by Ukraine’s military’s count.
Some of Putin’s struggles to keep up the war effort can be linked to the crush of sanctions from the United States and other countries, too.
The senior U.S. defense official noted that Russia is having trouble keeping up their inventory on precision-guided munitions.
“The sanctions are having a bite on the Russians' ability to replenish those stocks in their defense industrial base,” the official said on a call with reporters.
For Putin, though, his missteps aren’t just going to cause flagging morale and failures in the war in Ukraine; It will take his military years to recover, according to an analysis from the U.S. intelligence community.
“As we’ve watched the Russians falter here and the losses that they’ve sustained, we believe that they’re going to be set back conventionally for a number of years as they try to recoup these losses and replace all of the equipment and soldiers that they have lost,” Scott Berrier, the Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency told lawmakers in a briefing this week.