A Russian soldier sent to do Vladimir Putin’s bidding in Ukraine has been caught calling the Russian leader an “old nutjob” and trash-talking his war, while others say the Kremlin’s military leadership has sent in a ruthless general to bring disloyal troops in line.
That’s according to Ukrainian intelligence, which released two audio recordings Thursday of what it said were intercepted calls capturing the rapidly deteriorating morale among Russian soldiers.
In the first recording, shared by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate, a young man identified only as a Russian soldier can be heard venting with a female friend about Putin’s speech at the May 9 Victory Day parade.
Calling Putin’s speech “gross,” his friend said that “after the parade” she had been “shaking all day.”
“Well what do you want, he’s an old nutjob,” the man shot back, before mockingly saying, “Yes let’s get the USSR, fuck, Lithuania, Latvia, fucking Estonia, everything that’s not part of Russia let’s win back.”
As the pair rattled off the list of territories they said Russia will probably try to seize, once they got to Belarus—which the woman said would willingly join Russia “as soon as Putin needs it”—the man said, “let them fucking join already then, what the fuck are we taking the rap all alone here for.”
In one last parting shot after his friend noted Putin probably just doesn’t want to share his “victory” in Ukraine, the soldier vented “right, ‘victory,’ as if we didn’t fuck up enough around here already.”
Ukrainian authorities did not reveal where the purported soldier was based in the country, but the disdain heard in his scathing comments has been echoed by other troops in a slew of other recent intercepted radio traffic.
Perhaps that is why Russia’s military leadership reportedly sent in a general with a brutal reputation to bring soldiers in line.
“Well, Muradov arrived and arranged a demonstrative tribunal,” one purported Russian soldier told his friend in what Ukraine’s Security Service said was another intercepted phone conversation between troops.
The general’s full name was not revealed in the recording, but the men appeared to be referring to Rustam Muradov, a lieutenant general and the deputy commander of the Southern Military District, known for overseeing fierce fighting in Syria. Muradov has also been personally sanctioned by the European Union in connection with Russia’s war against Ukraine.
According to the unnamed soldier in the recording, Muradov was sent in to crack down on his unit because “no one wanted to keep going ahead.”
“The commanders didn’t want to lead their boys to death. The guys themselves just weren’t ready. So yesterday [Muradov] busted the fuck out of the commanders to make an example, he undressed them, made them pull everything out of their pockets, tied their hands. Then they loaded them into [buses] and took them away,” he said.
No further details were provided by Ukrainian intelligence on when the intercepted conversation took place, or what unit the soldier belonged to.
Accounts of fed-up soldiers with low morale have multiplied exponentially since Putin launched his “special military operation” in late February, with troops routinely complaining of faulty equipment and lack of leadership.
One of the Russian soldiers sent into Ukraine at the start of the invasion told BBC’s Russian service that he and others had been duped by the military leadership into believing they were only partaking in military drills, a common claim among troops.
In an interview published Thursday, Sergei Bokov said he had been sent to a field camp along the border with Ukraine at the beginning of February under the guise of taking part in drills.
“They told us then to let our families know we were at the ‘Allied-Resolve 2022’ exercises. You see, they even thought up a name for the drills. But there were no mass drills. They tricked us beautifully, they fucking tricked us,” he said.
After spending more than a month in the war and fighting in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, he said, he and several others in his unit deliberately broke military rules and then refused to be part of the war any further.
“They didn’t even try to talk us out of [quitting], because we weren’t the first,” he was quoted as saying.